Live Nerdiness 3.0: Car Talk!

Join me and one of my fellow nerds, as we talk Christine (both book and movie), as well as some of the other happenings in the world of The Master!

 

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/jeremy-lloyd/dark-tower-radio

Top 10 Women in Horror Movies

So, guys and ghouls, it is that time of year again…

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

Well, yes it is football season, but that was not what I was referring too.  I mean, do you think I want to be scared into a change pants?  Come on, now!

Well, actually I do.  And watching Indianapolis Colts football is one way to be scared, although many other emotions tend to be involved, which include extreme anger, exhilaration, puzzlement, denial, bargaining and resignation.

But, there are lots of other things that I can watch, other than Colts football, if I don’t want to experience the different stages of grief in a four hour setting (NFL math is funny that way:  one hour of football somehow turns into four hours yelling myself horse (you are welcome for that one) in front of my TV.)

In other words:  horror movies.  Horror movies everywhere…

At this time of year, I feel that autumn is right around the corner.  And this starts right after Labor Day, when the Christmas merchandise at the stores is on display!

And to counter the sight of Christmas decorations when the temperature is still at least 90 F, there is only one thing we can do…

That’s right, watch some horror movies.  Or maybe lots of horror movies.  All right, a metric shit ton of horror movies!

And so many movies to choose from.

We have our classics, like Carrie, Halloween and Friday the 13th.

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Or “new school,” like Horns.  You gotta admit, seeing Harry Potter as the devil is fun!

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Or, we don’t have to limit ourselves to movies.  There are plenty of good, horror themed shows not titled American Horror Story to chose from.  And most are available via the miracle of the 21st century otherwise known as Neflix.  Cable schmable, right?

Now, one thing about horror movies:  they seem to have an audience.  And no, not necessarily horror junkies.

Let’s face it:  most horror movies are geared towards white males.  That is often who your horror movie protagonist is, with a few exceptions, like Night of the Living Dead, which was decades ahead of its time for featuring an African American guy as its protagonist.

And it’s not to say that those movies are not good movies.  In fact, movies like Phantasm (I dare you to cross The Tall Man, boooyyyy!), The Shining, Horns and many others are either classics, or on their way to becoming classics.  And I have no problem with that, they are great movies and deserve their accolades.

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But, I feel like I am missing something when I watch certain movies.  In fact, I feel like I may be missing at least half of something…

That’s right, where are my ladies?  I mean, we make up half the population, right?  So where are we?  Where are we in one of my favorite movie genres?

Well, it turns out that if take the time (after all, rushing us is bad, on so many levels, haha) and look, you can find us ladies in horror movies.  And some bad ass ones at that!

In recent years, we have become even easier to find in the horror, genre and science fiction categories.  After all, Game of Thrones, anyone?  Plenty of kick ass women there!

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And The Master and The Master 2.0 have gotten in on the act, as both Stephen King and Joe Hill have managed to write convincing female characters, who have an identity beyond the wife or girlfriend of the guy who winds up kicking ass.

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So, if you look, we are there in horror movies.  Sometimes we get horribly victimized.  Sometimes we victimize others.  But other times, we throw down some serious shade, and you do not want to meet us in a dark alley!

With that being said, here is my list of top 10 women in horror (both on television and film.)  Keep in mind that this is my opinion only, and could be subject to change at any moment…

And, as always:

Spoiler alert


10.  Sally (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Well, I may be a little biased with this statement, but I will say it anyway:

Gingers rule!

And as soon as we have enough freckles, we plan to take over the world!

Okay, I am kidding (you hope.)

But this entry on my list has earned her spot on it.  And yes, she just happens to be a ginger.

Guys and ghouls, I bring to you…Sally!

Now, Sally may literally owe her existence to a man.  However, do not underestimate her, as she is tough, smart and resourceful.

After all, a chic who clearly knows her poisons.  Who would want to cross her?

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Sally is a love interest in the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas (and one half of one of one my favorite onscreen couples ever), but to me, she is so much more than that.

For most of her life, Sally is held in captivity by her creator.  She understands that that she may be selling herself short, and she works to build a life for herself beyond captivity, and to connect with the outside world in a meaningful way.

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Sally also brings a message of self-acceptance.  After all, she literally falls apart, but that doesn’t stop her from picking herself back up and continuing on with her life.  That message of self-acceptance is one that Jack Skellington badly needs to hear, as he finally accepts that it is okay to be the Pumpkin King, and leave “Sandy Claws” to those who are better qualified for that job.

Is it a Halloween movie?  Is it a Christmas movie?  It’s an existential crisis!  But an awesome existential crisis!

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9.  Mrs. Vorhees (Friday the 13th)

Every movie needs a good guy (or bad girl.)  This is especially true of horror movies.  After all, where would we be without The Tall Man, Pennywise the Clown, Reverend Kane, along with many other bad guys that make these movies memorable?

Well, we can add Mrs. Vorhees to that list as well.

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When I bring up Friday the 13th, most people think of the guy in the hockey mask.  I then have to gently remind him that he is the protagonist in the 19 or so sequels that the franchise has generated, along with the awesomely bad crossover where Jason and Freddy meet…spoiler alert:  they don’t meet for Netflix and chill!

So, let’s go back to the beginning.

In other words, the infamous Camp Crystal Lake.  And a few horny teenagers.  And of course, the campers.

And…the camp’s cook?

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Yes, the camp’s cook.  And the mother to Jason Vorhees, who (supposedly) drowned due to the horny camp counselors not doing their job, due to fact of being…well…horny.

Again, Jason is a non-factor in the first film of the franchise.  We do see the “Jason half” of Mrs. Vorhees personality, as she rationalizes killing teenagers, but Mrs. Vorhees is responsible for all the blood and guts.  All.  The.  Blood.  And.  Guts.

All of it!

I personally love a lady vs. lady show down.  There is something much more fierce about those, and so primal.

Well, I got my wish when I watched Friday the 13th, in one of the most epic onscreen lady vs. lady show downs in the history of film and television!

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It doesn’t get much better than that, folks!


8)  Sidney Prescott (Scream)

When I watched Deadpool, I found it amusing that the title character seemed to be self-aware.  He knew he was in a movie, and made reference to that fact throughout the movie.  It was good for plenty of yuks!

The movie Scream also uses the concept of “self aware”, and perhaps one of the best uses of that concept.

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After all, Scream constantly makes references to horror movies throughout the movie.

In fact, in the opening scene, the killer begins by asking trivia questions (see the above entry.)  And that is just the beginning.

Scream pokes fun at the horror genre.  A lot.  After, we now all know to never say, “I’ll be right back?”  Or to drink or have sex in a horror movie, as those acts also mean certain death.

However, underneath the humor, Scream is still a horror movie.  With a protagonist who kicks ass.

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And oh yeah, this protagonist just happens to be a girl!

Sidney’s plight is something that is all too familiar:  her mother was raped and murdered.  The murderer was supposedly caught and put in jail, but Sidney is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death, and the repressed emotions that come with the trauma.

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And then people start getting killed.  Sidney is still struggling with her trauma, and is now unsure of who she can trust.  Sidney is also now unsure that she did correctly identify her mother’s killer, and fears that she may have put the wrong man in jail.

Throughout the movie, Sidney shows herself to be a fighter.  From the reporter who will not stop harassing her to her friend and boyfriend who turn out to to be the killers, Sidney proves that she is resilient, and a force to be reckoned with.

Processing trauma and coming out on the other side is difficult, but is rewarding when it is finally accomplished.  The character of Sidney Prescott is a wonderful example of this.

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7.  Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

Often, I joke (well, sort of) that I am in a relationship with…my bed.

Hi, my name is Leah, and if I don’t get my sleep, I will cut a bitch!

In other words, my bed is a refuge, as is my sleep.

Well, sleep usually is.  Although sometimes I am given to having nightmares…

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But I am lucky in the fact that my nightmares, no matter how real they seem (that one featuring the Tall Man and strange Lovecraftian creatures was certainly a doozy), are just dreams in the end.

They can’t hurt me.

The subject of this particular entry, however, was not so lucky.

Poor Nancy.

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Falling asleep became dangerous for her, so no refuge for her.

I mean, she dozed off in class and nearly got killed for it.  Makes the detention one would normally expect seem kind of mild, right?

However, Nancy sleeps on it (see what I did there) and decides to do something about the evil creature who has been tormenting her and her friends in their dreams.

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First, she recruits her boyfriend, Glenn, to help her catch Freddy. But when that doesn’t work, she doesn’t give up, and instead persuades her father to help trap Freddy.

Nancy just will not take no for an answer, and will stop at nothing to destroy Freddy Kreuger for good (or at least until the next sequel, at any rate.)

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She will not go down without a fight, and I have always loved her for it.

Freddy Kreuger may be one of my favorite horror movie villains of all time, but let’s face it, without Nancy, he would be nothing.  And that is not just because he needs dreams from teenagers so that he can exist.

The fact that my favorite horror villain has to face off against a woman is just icing on the cake.  Wait, I take that back.  Nancy is the cake, icing and all.

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6.  Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Now, I often tell people that high school was hell for me. And it was.

I spent most of my time isolated.  And being isolated was actually the good part.  When I was “only isolated,” I considered myself to be lucky, as least I wasn’t being tormented.

The lesser of the two evils, I suppose…

But what was that saying that I heard way back when, about a guy with no shoes who meets a guy with no feet and gets some kind of new perspective?

In other words, I should be lucky that my school was not built on a Hellmouth, right?

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Isolation and bullying is one thing.  We can talk about the lesser of two evils and so forth…

But when your school is built on a Hellmouth, and when you have to deal with vampires, werewolves, and all kinds of other Big Bads, I think we are beyond the discussion of the lesser of two evils.

In fact, you may just piss one of those Big Bads off by referring to him/her/it as “lesser.”  And that would be dangerous indeed.

And in the midst of all this…well…Hell, we have Willow Rosenberg.

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Now, Willow may be a classic “sidekick” to Buffy, who had the fortune (or is it misfortune?) of moving to Sunnydale, CA, where her destiny as The Slayer awaited her, but make no mistake about it:  Willow is also a bad ass herself.

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Not only did she fight along Buffy’s side (along with Xander, Giles and a few others), Willow also, like so many of us, struggled to find her identity in the Hell otherwise known as high school.

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As a result, one of the most fascinating character arcs in television history emerged.

How often do you see someone go from high school computer nerd, to fledgling witch, to full fledged witch, all the while never losing her integrity, making the arc seem so natural?

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Oh, and Willow also came out as a lesbian somewhere in there too, making her one of the first major characters in a TV show to be openly gay.  And it was all so natural too.  When Willow finally coupled up with Tara, it seemed so right, and to be true love, as opposed to some kind of fetish.  Her friends accepted her as gay, and nothing really changed between them…I loved it!

Oh, and any time I think any of my break ups were bad (along with my high school experience), I just think what was done to poor Willow in the name of entertainment for the masses.  I think this is where that term ugly cry comes into play.


5.   Carrie White (Carrie, 1976)

Yeah, see above…

I will say it once and I will say it again:  High school, aka government babysitting is overrated at best.  At worst, it is Hell.  And the high school in question does not even need to be built on a Hellmouth to suck.  High schools do that quite well on their own, thankyouverymuch.

And again, my high school experienced sucked.  It sucked bunches.  My best memory, other than finally graduating, was getting a 100% on a calculus test.

The teacher must have though I was a freak…

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Well, I am a freak.  But I actually think my freakage is pretty mild, compared to this particular entry.

Meet Carrie White.

On one hand, Carrie is your typical high school reject.  At best, the other students ignore her, and she is invisible to pretty much everyone.

But the at worst part is just horrible.  Getting pelted by tampons, while you are having your first period at age 17 and thinking you are dying…well, I think I would trade going to high school on the Hellmouth for that one!

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However, on the other hand, Carrie is not your typical high school reject.  For one thing, she has a religious fanatic for a mother at home, who shames her for getting her period, getting asked to prom, and pretty much shames her daughter for existing.

Carrie also possesses telekinetic powers.  And this turns out to be bad news for everyone.  When a high school prank goes horribly wrong, and Carrie is humiliated at prom, everyone is at the brunt of Carrie’s revenge.

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Carrie’s powers are unleashed, and the results are epic, to say the least.

I have always said that the villains in this movie are Margaret White, along with Carrie’s cruel classmates.  Carrie is the most innocent among all the characters.  How could you expect her not to finally retaliate, after the happiest night in her tormented life is ruined?

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I shed more than a few tears when Carrie died (see the part above about the ugly cry.)

And for the record, my high school classmates should be lucky that I did not possess telekinetic powers…

Very lucky…

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4.  Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)

“Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual”. I myself am strange and unusual.”

Oh, the above quote…

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When I first heard it, there were so many emotions to process…

Happiness was one of them, of course.

And, believe it or not, relief was one of them as well.

I may have fallen in love a little that day, with a fictional character.  I have a bad habit of doing that, it seems.

Of course, I am speaking of Lydia Deetz.

As a 90’s kid, “Goth” was a thing.

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We all had them in at least one class.

The kids who wore all black, even in the summertime.

Often, they loved horror.

They had an affinity for creepy things.

Their taste in music was cutting edge, to say the least.  Nine Inch Nails, anyone?

Lydia Deetz started the Goth culture.

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She rocked the all black and pale-face make-up before it was cool (I mean, I was pale-face before it was cool, but no make-up needed here.  Gotta love being a soul stealing ginger, AmIrite?)

In case I have not made this clear, I was not a kid who fit in.  In fact, I didn’t really belong anywhere.

Growing up, I felt like a ghost.  Sometimes I wondered if I was actually dead, and everyone knew it but me and forgot to tell me.

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And like Lydia, I lived in a world of my creation.  I loved to read and write, and create art.

Those interests don’t exactly make one’s phone ring off the hook on Friday night, but I tried to remain true to myself.

That was the thing I admired most about Lydia:  she remained true to herself.

She preferred the company of ghosts over people (well, I preferred the company of animals, but close enough, right?)

Things that repelled most people attracted Lydia (to this day, my parents still think I am some kind of literary leper for loving Stephen King.)

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Being different is a good thing.  But often, it is lonely.

Characters like Lydia Deetz remind us of how awesome different is, and make the journey a little less lonely.


3.  Eleven (Stranger Things)

“She’s our friend and she’s crazy!”

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Stranger Things is my show and it’s awesome!

Now, no matter what else happens in 2016 (and we still have the presidential election to get through, so the season finale is still a bit far away), we can at say, “At least we had Stranger Things.”

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And there so many things to love about Stranger Things.

It is a tribute to all things 80’s.

It pays homage to all kinds of horror, including John Carpenter films, Wes Craven and even H.P. Lovecraft.

It is a gold mine for Stephen King fans.  The story line of people with PSI abilities is classic King (Firestarter, anyone?), not to mention the fact that The Master’s name is lovingly brought up in an episode.

I could go on and on, actually.  Lots of reasons to love Stranger Things

At least eleven, I would say…

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Oh, right.  Eleven.  The subject of this entry!

If you told me that the show Stranger Things centered on the subject of four friends (who are boys) and their entrance into adulthood, along with the loss of innocence they experience, you would be correct.

On the surface, that is what Stranger Things is about (along with a monster christened Mr. Tulip-Head and his band of merry slugs.)  That statement would not be incorrect.

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But, like the books written by a certain famous writer, Stranger Things is so much more than that.

Enter Eleven, everyone’s favorite waffle loving, bald-headed escapee from an evil government lab run by the creep known as Dr. Pedophile.

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And oh yeah, Eleven possesses PSI abilities, along with being on the run from “Papa” (shudder.)

At first, Eleven serves as kind of homing beacon, to help Mike and his friends try to find their missing friend Will, whose disappearance just happens to coincide with Eleven’s appearance.

However, the boys, especially Mike, grow to like Eleven on her own merits.  A friendship develops, and Eleven becomes fiercely protective of her new friends (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Through their friendship with Eleven, the boys mature, and also come to the realization that the world is not a safe place, nor is it always a fair place.  Eleven brings out the best in Mike, who begins to fall in love with her.

The realization that the world is not a safe or fair place comes in the final episode, when Eleven (seemingly) sacrifices herself to the alternate dimension known as the Upside-Down, when she battles the monster that was responsible for kidnapping Will.

Out of all the characters on the show, Eleven proves herself to the most selfless of the bunch, who takes the meaning of friendship to a new level, when she sacrifices herself for another child who she does not even know.  She also proves herself to be a tough fighter, in her journeys to the Upside-Down and her battle with the extra-dimensional monster.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

And a fierce protector of Eggo Waffles everywhere.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT mess with that girl’s waffles, if you know what’s good for you!

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2.  Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful)

I love Eva Green

Oh, how I love Eva Green!

Eva Green is the bomb.com!

Did I mention that I love Eva Green?

Okay, just wanted to make my point clear.

And the reason I fell in love with Eva Green was her portrayal of Vanessa Ives on the show Penny Dreadful.

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I have problems.  I really do.  Sometimes they feel like they number around 99, although I am really not sure if a bitch accounts for more than a few (although my crazy dog could be put into that bitch category.)

But then, I can go watch the period horror/drama known as Penny Dreadful, and I get some perspective.

In other, my problems are pretty damn mild.  Or maybe even non-existent, really.

After all, I don’t have the Devil Himself after me.

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Or Dracula, for that matter.

I may have guys hit on me and give me unwanted attention, but at least they aren’t evil incarnate.

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(On a side note, no one has ever seen my ex and Lucifer in the same room together.  Fun fact of the day!)

Nor am I harassed by a coven of witches who are willing to hand me over to at least one of the above.

Oh, and I don’t live in Victorian London, where women are limited to only a couple of roles, and if they don’t fit in, then well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?

I have just described a day in the life of Vanessa Ives, the main character of the show Penny Dreadful.  Yikes much?

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But somehow, despite all of the horrors she has to endure throughout her life (both supernatural and non-supernatural), Vanessa Ives is able to maintain a kind of grace that one rarely sees even in people who have not been cursed by an unknown evil force.

Vanessa makes everyone around her better.  Her influence is something to behold, as she brings out the best even in those who may not be the best humanity has to offer (Victor Frankenstein and Sir Malcolm being prime examples of this.)

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Vanessa’s influence even extends to the ‘non-human” characters in the show, including Caliban (otherwise known as The Creature) and Ethan, the werewolf.

Caliban, in particular, benefits from his friendship with Vanessa.  Even before he became “The Creature,” Caliban was in danger of his losing his humanity due to his employment with the Banning Clinic.  However, when he is forced to care for Vanessa, he begins to see his patients as individuals, as opposed to numbers, and realizes that his employer is in the wrong in its treatment of its patients, and that he can no longer work for them.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

(Another side note:  anyone who watches the episode A Blade of Grass without tearing up at least a little bit has ice water instead of blood in his/her veins, and we cannot be friends.)

Even after Caliban is transformed into The Creature, Vanessa extends her friendship to him, reminding Caliban that he is more than a corpse stitched together and brought back to life as a science experiment.

Vanessa’s character serves to make the ending even more poignant, as she sacrifices herself so that others may live.

Vanessa’s friends mourn her death, but it is clear that she lives on in each of them, as her influence continues, even after her death.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3066


And now, for my number 1 woman in horror…

drum-roll-please

I give you…


Dana Scully (The X Files)

OK, let’s get one thing straight…

That’s Dr. Scully to you!

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Now, in case it wasn’t clear, I was a nerd growing up.

I liked math and science.

I read books on theoretical physics for fun.

A wild day for me consisted of visiting the library and finding five books.  OR SIX BOOKS.  SIX BOOKS!

So, as you can imagine, my social calendar was clear until approximately February 30th, 2087.  Although these days, I’m a little more booked, because that calendar is clear until May 32nd 2072, although if you need something, I may be able to shuffle things around and pencil you in.

But, in the fall of 1993, things began to look up.  Well, a little bit, at least.

For that is when we had the debut of The X Files.

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Before I watched The X Files, I did not see a lot of representation of women in my world, aka the world of nerd.  Now, this did not necessarily bother me much, at least on a conscious level.

However, deep inside, I knew that something was missing,  I could not tell you what, but I knew that my world was lacking.

But then Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully made their entrance to the screen.

And right away, it became evident of what my world was missing.

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You see, the world of horror and general nerdiness had been waiting for a woman like Scully.  Finally, she arrived.

And she did not disappoint.

Scully was smart (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Not only was Scully smart, she could throw down some serious shade.  And usually, she was wearing heels of at least three inches while doing that.

And her autopsies were so cool!  They almost made me want to go to medical school, just so I could throw around medical jargon like that.  Almost.

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Scully also kept her partner Mulder grounded.  Mulder could get a little nutty at times with his (literally) out of this world theories, but Scully was able to reign him in, and was the yin to yang.  They made a great team.

While Mulder often had to rescue Scully from cannibals, a death fetishist and a few other horrors (both human and supernatural), Scully often often rescued Mulder.

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I loved seeing her storm in with those heels, pointing her gun and flashing her FBI badge.  Sometimes her efforts backfired, and Scully would end up in a dire predicament as well.  But many times, Scully was able to get Mulder out whatever predicament he found himself in, and the two could go on to kick ass for another episode.

Scully also faced the same sexism many of us in the “real world” have to face on regular basis.  Sometimes people were reluctant to respect her, or would ignore her in favor of her male partner.  But Scully always handled that so well, and could silence her naysayers with a single look or sentence.  And I loved her for it.

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And I have one thing to say:  Representation matters.  I am someone who has spent her life feeling invisible and ignored.  And its not fun.  I do not wish that on anyone.

But when we create characters such as Dana Scully, the world becomes a little brighter.  And a little less lonely.

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At last, someone gets us.  And the journey becomes exciting,  At last, we begin to see the hope.


Well, that’s it for my top 10 ladies in horror.

I am sure I missed a few, but compiling this list was not an easy task.  So a shout out to any I may have left out:  You are not forgotten!

So, if you don’t feel like being horrified by Indianapolis Colts football, pop in one of these movies, or tune in to Netflix and watch one of these shows.

At the very least, you can kill a few hours.  Or maybe, just maybe, you can appreciate one of these films or TV shows in a new light, after seeing some kick ass ladies!

Happy watching!

 

My Top 10 Horror Movies

For many years, horror has been a big part of my life.

And for the record, I am not talking about my marriage to my ex husband…

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Actually, I don’t think I was married to a psychotic clown living in the sewers.  However, no one ever saw my ex and Pennywise in the same room, so this remains open to debate.

No, I am talking horror in books and in movies.

I am huge Stephen King nut and I have been reading his books off and on since I was twelve years old.  Twenty six years, for you nosy folks!

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Of course, Stephen King was not the only thing in my horror diet.  I love pizza, but I can’t eat that every day.  And I love Stephen King, but my literary diet does need at least some variety, lest I suffer from vitamin L deficiency (literary deficiency, for the uninitiated.)

So, I read other writers.  Joe Hill does nicely in a pinch.  And I’m not saying that just because I consider him to be The Master 2.0 (I may be just a little biased, but oh well.)

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And of course, Clive Barker, Michaelbrent Collings, Joseph Duncan and quite a few others supplement my literary diet quite nicely, so I don’t have to worry about any deficiencies.

I can also turn to the screen to pick up some variety too.  In other words, there’s always movies and television.

I will be an X Phile for life.  I also love Penny Dreadful and am still officially in mourning because the series ended earlier this year.

And horror movies.  Who can forget horror movies?

Is there a better way to spend an afternoon, or perhaps an evening, than watching a good horror movie?

Maybe you snuggle up to your man and bury your head on his chest when the scary parts come on, but still peek anyway.  Or maybe you just have dogs for company, although burying your head on a dog may end up squishing the dog instead.  Or result in said dog moving REALLY far away.  REALLY FAR, maybe as much as five feet away from you!

Watching horror movies is fun.  The adrenaline rush is fun.  And horror movies tend to have some comedy in them, so you get the laughs too.  Or perhaps at least some soft core porn, since sex is usually a big part of most horror movies.

And there are so many horror flicks to choose from.  You have ones based on Stephen King books, like Carrie, Children of the Corn and that mini series with that really scary clown dude…hold on, I will think of It

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And classic slasher films.  Who doesn’t love Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the escapades of goofy old Michael Myers?

Or perhaps your bag is more dark fantasy, and you get in the mood for some Horns!

At any rate, there are lots of good horror movies out there.  And after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to write a blog post, listing my top ten horror movies.  It took a few tries, but I have whittled it down to ten, so here goes nothing!

Reminder:  this is one blogger’s opinion only.  I am aware that I probably left your favorite movie off, but I really don’t care.  And if you are going to roast me, go with slow heat, the flavors will be more developed that way.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


10.  Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Well, we all have to start somewhere, right?

And my somehow happened to be a movie where people died.

Lots of people died, in fact.

And in really inventive ways.

And klowns were responsible.  Killer Klowns.  And these Killer Klowns were from outer space!

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If I remember correctly, Killer Klowns from Outer Space was the first horror movie that I watched.  And it set the stage for me.

Yes, the movie is just ridiculous.  I mean, cotton candy somehow became a weapon…c’mon, man!

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And acting?  What acting?  Although, to be fair, it didn’t require much acting to die at the hands of the Killer Klowns who killed in inventive ways.

Shortly after I watched this (alternating between sort of hysterical laughter and gross out noises that only a 12 year old girl can make), I began to explore horror, in both books and films.  I became a Stephen King addict.  I started watching Alfred Hitchcock too.

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And, as they say, the rest is history.

Killer Klowns should be labeled a gateway movie.  Because it was, at least for me.

It was a gateway.  A gateway into the horror genre.  And I can’t think of a better (or is it horrible) movie to receive that honor.


9.  Candyman

Often, horror movies deal with morality…

Ok, now that you are done choking on your coffee (or whatever other beverage you may be imbibing at the moment), let’s talk about this.

Of course, sex is a theme in a lot of horror movies.  There is a direct correlation to how many clothes come off and the proximity to home base and how quickly one dies in a horror movie, it seems.

But many horror movies deal with other kinds of issues that actually don’t have anything to do with teenagers having sex.

One of these movies is Candyman.

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The villain in this movie, Candyman, was actually the son of a slave, who had become a well-known artist.  However, the man makes the mistake of falling in love with a white woman, and (literally) all hell breaks loose.  He is attacked by a white lynch mob, which cuts off his painting hand and replaces it with a hook.  The mob then smears the man with honey, chanting “Candyman”, as he is stung to death by bees.

Of course, the man continues to live on, even after death, as Candyman. a spirit who can be summoned when someone looks into a mirror and says “Candyman” five times.

Since this is a horror movie, there is someone stupid  brave enough to do just that.  And lots of people get murdered.  Lots and lots of people.  So that’s disturbing.

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But the movie is disturbing for more than just the fact that a guy can come out of a mirror and kill people.  It turns out that 26 people, all of whom were residents of the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, have been murdered.  And the police have put forth no effort to solve the murders.  Some of these victims are children.  All of the victims are African American.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  In other words, just turn on the news, and something similar will likely pop up at some point.  Maybe.  Tragically, many people of color are murdered in this country.  If the victim is lucky, the media acknowledges the murder, and someone puts forth the effort to bring justice to the victim and his/her family.  However, more often than not, just like in this particular movie, the crime is ignored.  Or worse yet, the victim’s so-called criminal record is on display, and he or she is vilified, rubbing salt into the wounds of an already grieving family.

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Race plays a huge factor in murder, the solving of murders and policing in general in this society.  Often, there is more than enough real life horror to go around, and a ghost with a hook is nowhere nearly as frightening as our fellow man.


8.  Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Often, the line between reality and fiction is blurred.

School shootings are tragically common in this country, and some shooters have stated that the Richard Bachman book, Rage, was their inspiration for the crimes committed, for example.

But what if a fictional character can somehow come to life?

I will admit, I spent a whole summer being frightened of storm drains after my responsible camp counselor took it upon herself to enlighten us about Pennywise the Clown.  So ten year old me spent a summer assiduously avoiding being in the bathroom by herself for too long, along with jumping at every shadow…good times, in other words!

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But luckily, Pennywise never came to life, and I was safe.  Although I still stand by my statement about never having seen my ex and Pennywise in the same room, but that’s another story!

Sometimes, characters that are created become all too real.  We mourn their deaths as we would the death of a friend or family member.  Or we shake our heads when a TV show or book character makes what we think to be terrible decisions, and we feel their pain at the consequences of those decisions.

Or, these characters scare into a change of pants, and they haunt our dreams…

Like Freddy Kreuger.

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The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has become a bit of a joke, with all the sequels and even a reboot in 2010.  But when you get down to it, Freddy Kreuger is one scary motherfucker…and I will stand by that statement until my dying day!

The fact that Freddy Kreuger is believable is bad enough.  After all, guys murdering kids and our justice system letting them off on a technicality is something that happens, unfortunately.  And if I were a parent, I wouldn’t be above murder, in the interest of keeping my child and others safe from a monster like that.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare takes things up a level, and could be considered meta fiction, as Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp both play themselves in the movie.  The movie also stars Robert Englund, who plays himself, along with an even more horrifying version of Freddy Kreuger.

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It turns out that Freddy is indeed real, and after Heather, because she defeated him onscreen.  And no one is safe, including her family.

Works of art can often have an effect on the creator, along with anyone else who may be influenced by that particular work of art.  This is a fascinating theme that New Nightmare explores.  The deaths are gruesome, and the entire film has a strange, dreamlike quality, which makes this movie even scarier than its “source material.”


7)  Freaks

It is no secret that people fear what they don’t understand.

As someone who spent much of her life being bullied for her looks and well…for just being herself, I have first hand experience with this.  I have had people makes assumptions about anything and everything about me, even questioning my intelligence, because of how I looked.  In fact, I had few friends when I was in high school, and did not even kiss a guy until I was 19 years old.  And most of this was due to my feelings of how I looked.  And I have come a long way, but even today, I am uncomfortable with almost any kind of comments in regards to my looks, even though no one has told me I am ugly in a long, long time.

In fact, I think I dreamed of joining the circus for a time.  But since that was not a practical solution, I did the next best thing:  I rented the movie Freaks.

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Freaks deals with quite a few hot button topics, but it really boils down to is one thing:  man’s inhumanity to man, along with the fact that you can’t really judge a book by its cover.  Oh, and karma is a real bitch!

This movie is controversial to some, because of how it depicts those who may suffer from disabilities.  However, when I watched this movie, the so-called “freaks” were the ones I rooted for, and the ones who actually behaved in a humane (well, sort of, given what they have gone through in their lifetimes) manner.  However, the so-called “normal” folks were the enemies, especially the beautiful woman who tried to trick one of the “freaks,” so she could get access to his money.

I thought of the “beautiful one” as one of the mean girls in high school who was only nice to me when she wanted something (like answers to the math homework) and who would talk about me behind her back any chance she got.  However, someone finally gave her what she deserved, and she got to take a walk on the other side…

Again, karma is a bitch!

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6)  Carrie

While we are on the topic of high school and the mean girls who rarely get what they deserve, let’s talk about the movie Carrie.  For clarification, we will be discussing the 1976 version.

I have mixed feelings about onscreen adaptations of Stephen King novels.  Some, like The Green Mile, are straightforward adaptations that remain almost word for word to the source material.  Others, like 1408 and 11.22.63, are not straightforward adaptations, but still remain faithful to the spirit of the books.  And of course, there are others, like The Running Man, that share little in common with the source material, other than the title.

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Carrie is one of those adaptations that fall into the second category:  it is not a slavish adaptation to the source material, but anyone familiar with the novel can still “see” the novel when watching the movie.  The changes add to the story, rather than detracting from it.  Additionally, the performances in the movie, especially by Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek, are outstanding, and bring the movie from good to phenomenal.

Margaret White

The title character in the movie Carrie is one many of us can sympathize with.  I also rooted for Carrie when I read the book and watched the movie.  And I understood why Carrie “snapped”:  there is only so much abuse one can take from her peers before she decides that enough is enough.  Carrie’s treatment at the hands of her peers cut me to the core, as I had to deal with bullying for most of my school career, and that bullying pretty much ruined my life for years to come.  And Carrie’s death was most upsetting, although I was glad that her bullies got their just desserts.

One of the changes from the novel in the movie was the ending.  Sue Snell (who had tried to help Carrie) dreams that she is visiting Carrie’s grave, which has been defaced.  Sue attempts to place flowers on the grave, but a hand suddenly comes up from the ground, grabbing Sue.  Sue then awakens in hysterics, and is seemingly still in the dream.

That scene gets me.  Every.  Single.  Time.

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5)  Jacob’s Ladder

My father was drafted during the Vietnam War and actually saw time in Vietnam.  We don’t talk about his experiences much, but, not surprisingly, Vietnam has been a huge shadow over my life.  I am also an 80’s child, so Vietnam is also a huge theme in many movies that I grew up watching, including Rambo, Forrest Gump and Full Metal Jacket.

In high school, I read Dante’s Inferno.  I was fascinated with the concept of Purgatory:  there is a stage between this life and the afterlife, where you are doomed to repeat all the worst moments in your life, before you finally figure it out, and move on to the next level, whatever that may be.  And some poor souls never figure it out, and are doomed to repeat their mistakes for all eternity.

The movie Jacob’s Ladder combines commentary on the Vietnam War, along with the concept of Purgatory.  The title character, Jacob, is troubled by horrible memories of his time in Vietnam, where he believes that he was drugged and committed atrocities.  Soon, he is unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality, as he begins to see odd things in his daily life that he cannot explain.  Jacob’s visions escalate, and he fears that he is going mad.

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Well, it turns out that Jacob is (literally) a lost soul.  See the part about Purgatory.  In other words, that creepy fortune teller is right:  Jacob is already dead.  He was placed in a body bag in Vietnam, but never accepted his death.  So he has been stuck in Purgatory and is haunted by his past sins.

It is only when Jacob faces the truth about what has happened to him, that he is able to move on.  He is led by his deceased son to whatever the next level of life is.  It is noted by the doctors that Jacob seems to now be at peace.

Like The Inferno, Jacob’s Ladder is a great metaphor for being able to let go and not hold on to something that no longer serves any purpose in one’s life (or afterlife.)  It also brings attentions to the horrors of war, and manages to still be a scary, effective horror movie.

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4)  Horns

Sometimes, we create our own monsters.  And the monster within is far more frightening than a bloodsucking vampire or a clown that lives in the sewers.

Horns explores the concept of the monster within in depth.  Based on a book by Joe Hill, this movie deals with many other themes other than “the monster within,” including family, friendship, first love and just who (or what) can be considered evil.

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One morning, Ignacio M. Parrish (note the initials), or Ig, wakes up and finds he has grown a pair of horns.  These horns are invisible (almost) everyone else, but Ig finds out that people will confess their darkest desires (and sometimes even act those desires out, having lost all inhibition) to him, as the horns seem to exude some sort of influence on (almost) everyone around him.

We also learn of Ig’s first love, Merrin, and that Merrin was murdered nearly a year prior.  Ig was accused of the murder, and no one in town believes that he is innocent.  For the rest of the movie, Ig struggles to understand what he has become, and to solve Merrin’s murder and clear his own name.  Ig also finds out that those he called friends and family are really anything but, and that he stands alone in his desire to bring justice to Merrin.

Horns appears to be a horror movie, and it is, but it is so much more.  It is a love story, a cat-and-mouse detective story and even a dark fantasy, with a lot of religious allegory.  In other words, a little something for everyone.

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3.  Burnt Offerings

Move over, The Amityville Horror  and The Conjuring.  There’s a new (well, not really) haunted house movie in town, and it goes by the name of Burnt Offerings.

Burnt Offerings may not be the movie one thinks of when anyone brings up the subject of the haunted house movie.  And that would be a grave oversight, as this movie is the movie I believe should represent the haunted house movie category.

In many ways, Burnt Offerings is your standard haunted house movie.  There is a nice young family, which includes the sweet old great aunt Elizabeth (played brilliantly by Bette Davis.)  The nice young family gets a deal for a summer home rental that is probably too good to be true.  The mother of the nice young family doesn’t listen, of course, and that spells doom for everyone.

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However, in many ways, Burnt Offerings is NOT your standard haunted house movie.  For one thing, ghosts are not a major of part of the movie. Instead, the movie relies on “real life horrors” (like a father trying to drown his child) and the house itself becomes a character, exerting its evil influence on the inhabitants.  The film also uses psychological horror, invading the minds of the inhabitants and terrorizing them with unpleasant past memories.

Oh, and before we move on to the next entry, let’s hear it for the chauffeur.  In other words, one of the many reasons I need to spend some quality time in my therapist’s chair, even as an adult.  He may have also been responsible for a soiled pair of underwear, but I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor.

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2.  Phantasm

In any horror movie, you have to have a good villain.  After all, a good horror movie is nothing without a guy (or girl, or creature) that you love to hate.

For a long time, Pennywise the Clown was that creature.  Could anything be scarier than a homicidal clown who lives in the sewers and eats kids?

Well, I think I found someone to give good old Pennywise a run for his money (or is that a run for his souls?)

Enter The Tall Man, the villain from the movie Phantasm.  Again, I can neither confirm nor deny a rumor that this man may also have been responsible for a pair or two of soiled underwear.

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Phantasm may be old (only a year younger than yours truly…yikes!) but surprisingly, it stands the test of time.  I watched this movie recently, and it scared the crap out of me all over again…yikes!

As I have said before, Phantasm is all about the villain.  The Tall Man is definitely someone I would not want to meet in a dark alley (and I will pass on his dwarfs too, thank you.)  However, I was also struck by the movie’s use of ordinary objects to elicit a sense of foreboding and outright fear.  I think I can rightfully make the statement that this the only movie I know of that managed to make a guitar tuning fork frightening.  Along with the inside of the funeral home, although those are pretty frightening anyway.  Even Mike’s bedroom was frightening, although that may have just been the 1970’s decor (something that thankfully has NOT withstood the test of time.)

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It should be noted that while I generally have no use for sequels, especially with horror movies  (Carrie 2: The Rage anyone?), I think that Phantasm II is also very good and worth watching, although it seems to be more of a continuation than a sequel.


And now, for my favorite horror movie of all time…

drum-roll-please

Poltergeist (1982)

Yes, I have chosen Poltergeist as my favorite horror movie of all time.  This may seem like an odd choice, but roll with me on this, ok?

Poltergeist, on the surface, is not your typical horror movie.  There is no violence.  There is no sex.  There is hardly even any swearing…I believe that the worst word someone uses is “damn”, and there are certainly no f bombs.  In fact, the movie is rated PG, which is, again, unusual for a horror movie.

In fact, at points, this movie could be mistaken for a Disney movie…thank you, Zelda Rubinstein!

However, Poltergeist is one fucking scary movie.  I will mince no words:  this movie scared the shit out of me when I first saw, and still continues to scare the shit out of me to this day.

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Like I said before, this movie could almost be mistaken for a Disney movie.  At first, the hi-jinks of the ghosts haunting the home of the Freeling family are sort of amusing.  Chairs move on their own accord.  Drinking glasses break.  Furniture cannot stay still.

But slowly, the hi-jinks become a little more sinister.  Carol Anne’s pet bird mysteriously dies.  And then is the matter of that tree outside the bedroom window that is not as nice as it appears…

Then, we get to disgusting, as one of the parapsychologists who pays a visit to the Freelings helps himself to leftovers one night, and finds out he is not eating chicken…

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Very quickly, things go from benign to sort of disturbing to outright fucking terrifying, as Carol Anne is kidnapped and trapped in some sort of alternate dimension, between the living and the dead.

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But the nice medium pays a visit, to help the family.  And Carol Anne is rescued.  Dad finds out that the house was actually built on a graveyard (more on that in a minute), and the family decides to pack up and move.

Case closed, right?

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Well, no.  The last 15 minutes or so of Poltergeist is the biggest roller coaster ride in any movie, as literally all Hell breaks loose.

Turns out, there is a technicality.  So…a forgetful person not only built the house on a graveyard, but kind of forgot to move…you know…the DAMN BODIES that were buried in those graves!

In other words, we are FUBAR, ladies and gentleman!

Of course, all ends well (except for that television set, but I can’t blame Dad on that one).  But the suspense came close to killing me the first time I watched this movie as a teenager…would everyone survive, or would the spirits win?  And even as an adult, those last 15 minutes get the old heart rate up…

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The other thing I like about Poltergeist is that it was made long before CGI was even an idea, so Steven Spielberg had to rely on other things to tell the story, like props, makeup, acting and oh yeah…good writing and storytelling!  There is a reason why so few movies after, oh say, 1995 are on this list:  CGI has made for lazy storytelling and has been responsible for the decline of modern horror, in this humble blogger’s opinion.

Oh, and a side note:  I may have referred to Pennywise the Clown quite a few times in this blog post, but I think that Pennywise would do well to bow down to the Poltergeist Clown, as I believe this clown should take home the honor (or is horror?) of All Time Scariest Fucking Clown in a Movie Ever.

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Well, that’s it for my all time favorite horror movies.  It was hard to whittle the list down to just ten, and I am sure a few really good movies were left off.  What it is it that they say?  Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, right?

So, check some of these flicks out if you haven’t already.  I promise you, none of them are as scary as that thing they call the Republican National Convention, but at least the makeup job on the villains is much better than the makeup job on Donald Trump!

BOCA RATON, FL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on March 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Trump continues to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

And with that note, adios!  Happy viewing!

 

 

 

 

 

Since Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion 1.9

Well, looky what we have here…

Seems the internet has bent a little more as of late…

And this time, neither the Kardashians nor a certain ugly dress were responsible for it!

ugly dress

 

In other words, we have further news on something that we have all been anticipating…

No, its not an official announcement that Donald Trump has chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate!  I mean, if I wanted scary, I would watch a Stephen King movie…you know, scary motherfuckers like Stephen King (at least according to a certain former pimp)?

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Oh wait…

I believe this news does have something to with The Master, actually…

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Oh, that’s right…how could I have forgotten! Oops…

It appears that we have more news in regards The Second Coming  the upcoming Dark Tower movie!

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Sony Pictures has provided us with a release date.  Yes, an actual release date (fingers crossed).

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In other words, the beast has been reawakened.  And boy, is the beast loud!

Well, maybe just a dull roar, actually.  The beast was pretty loud, though, when the intent to make a movie was announced.  Broke the sound barrier, actually.

So yes, people are talking.  And debating.  And contemplating.  And rightfully so, as King considers this series of books to be his magnum opus, and so do many of his readers.  People want to see a movie, and to see that movie done right.  Books can be tricky to adapt to screen, and although some recent adaptations have been good (The Hunger Games is a prime example), there have been many bad on-screen adaptations (many of which are attached to The Master’s name.  That one was directed at you, 2002 Carrie.  And don’t think you are getting off either, Running Man!)

And yes, I will admit to being one of the speculators.  And a pretty vocal one, at that.  I believe that a good movie(s) can be made out of these books, and I will stand by that statement until (which hopefully does not happen) I am proven otherwise.  More detail can be found on that opinion here.

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But, as they say, opinions are like a certain body part none of us can function without…I believe it has to do with the gluteous maximus (I think).  In other words, we all have opinions, and some of us are not shy about expressing them.  I would be in that category, although social media and this blog are my preferred mediums, since none of my loved ones or the awesome man I married have the faintest idea of what I am blathering on about.

So, time to get down to business, and perhaps have a little fun!  I want to talk about casting for a couple of more major characters that I did not discuss in the previous entry.  The Dark Tower series also has a lot of supporting characters.  Some may only be present in one book or only a few pages, but these characters are important to the story, and deserve great casting choices.  And last, but certainly not least, I would like to discuss the music for The Dark Tower movie(s), as that is almost as important as the casting.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler

(Oh in case you were curious about the title…just go ahead and move that decimal one place to the right, say thank ya.  See what I did there?  You are very welcome!)

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Casting

In this section, we will discuss the casting for the movie.  I will be including several characters, both “major” and “minor.”  This is almost at random, with names that I have pulled out of Roland’s cowboy hat, so please bear with me and do not take offense if I have not included a favorite character of yours…so many blog entries, so little time (or something like that).

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Eddie Dean

I have already made my casting choice pretty clear for our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.  And while I still have much love for Roland, Eddie Dean has always been my favorite (sorry Roland, hope you aren’t hurt by this).  Eddie Dean is the book’s resident smart ass (his quips are currency, I think) but he also has a dark side, as he is a recovering heroin addict.  So we need someone a bit edgy to play this character…

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Aaron Paul has always been a popular casting choice, for obvious reasons (his role on the show Breaking Bad being a huge one).  Plus the guy has flat out volunteered to play Eddie and has expressed an interest in being in these movies.  So he is a decent choice…

However, my first pick for the role of Eddie Dean is Steven Amell.  Yes, Arrow/Casey Jones as Eddie Dean.  Amell is an immensely talented actor, and is about the right age for the role.  And he has proven acting chops in playing a dark, gritty role, as evidenced by the title role on the show Arrow.  Amell has made a beloved comic book character come to life, and I have complete faith that he could do the same with a beloved Stephen character.  Oh, and he is definitely not hard to look at either!

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Randall Flagg

Now, this role is an interesting one to cast.  It has been played before by Jamey Sheridan Billy Ray Cyrus’ twin brother on crack in the 1994 mini series adaptation of The Stand.  Matthew McConaughey has also been cast in the upcoming The Stand reboot (squee).  So, pretty simple, right?  Just stick McConaughey in the Dark Tower movie, and call it good?

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Well, not really.  While this may be the same character in The Stand, the Dark Tower series and a multitude of other King books (the very definition of an uber villain), it is NOT the same incarnation.  In The Stand, Flagg is charming, a bit like a sleazy car salesman.  And very…American is the best word I can think of.  Matthew McConaughey can pull that off.  In fact that’s what he does.  So good casting choice.  For The Stand, that is.

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But let’s talk about Dark Tower Flagg.  Dark Tower Flagg is the embodiment of an evil wizard.  And he is cruel and arrogant.  It seems like most people know he is evil and do their level best to avoid him.  In other words, almost a polar opposite to the incarnation of Flagg in The Stand, who almost seems more “human.”  As wonderful as Matthew McConaughey is, I have my doubts on whether he can pull that role off or not, so I think we need a different casting choice.

My nomination for the actor to play Randall Flagg in the Dark Tower movie is Walton Goggins.  Again, this is another actor with proven acting chops for a particular role in these movies.  Goggins played an excellent villain in his role as Boyd Crowder on the TV series Justified.  In fact, I think I looked up arrogant in the dictionary and found a picture of Boyd Crowder!  In all seriousness, Groggins is a character actor, which is exactly what is needed for the role of Randall Flagg, and I hope that the casting gods hear me, and pick well for this role.

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The Crimson King

This is an interesting role to speculate, as the Crimson King is a villain that is actually not visible very much in the books, until the final book in the series.  His presence is implied and his name mentioned, but he is, for the most part, not visible, much like the great wizard behind his curtain.

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However, just because something is true in the books does not necessarily mean it will be true in the movies.  In other words, I think that the Crimson King will be enjoying an increased bout of visibility, and therefore a larger role.  After all, film is a different medium, and sometimes adjustments need to be made in order to convey a story.

And the Crimson King is a worthy role.  It is implied that he is the boss of all evil in the King universe.  So therefore, we need someone distinguished to take on this role.  My vote is for Donald Sutherland.  You can’t get much more distinguished than Donald Sutherland.  Again, more proven acting chops, especially given his role of the bearded Oompa-Loompa of President Snow in the Hunger Games movies.

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Blaine the Mono

Really, I thought that the Joker was bad news. And I am not backing away from that statement any time soon, either.

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But then, I encountered Blaine the Mono…

Yes, a talking, evil, insane monorail has made me rethink my definition of bad news.  The Joker still ranks up there (or is it down there) but a talking monorail who releases poison gas on entire cities may give the Clown Prince of Crime a run for his money…

Joker 1

And who better to play one of the best villains in the Stephen King universe (and possibly in literature, period) than Mark Hamill?  After all, Blaine does make me think of the Joker, and Mark Hamill owned that role in the Batman animated TV series of yore (although he is reported to be reprising the role in the upcoming animated Batman movie The Killing Joke.  Whoever said life is not good has obviously not heard this bit of news).  Blaine will consist entirely of CGI, but the voice acting will be almost as important, if not important as, the CGI.  And Mark Hamill can make Blaine happen…that’s right folks, you heard it here first!

Blaine 2

Stephen King

So is is possible to write a series of books that you think is so awesome that you include yourself in them?

Well, with the Dark Tower series, the answer is yes.  Stephen King is a character in the series, and an important one at that.  Despite the divisiveness among fans that this move has provoked, King continues to remain a vital part of the series, and this part should not be ignored.

The easy answer would be to just have King play himself.  After all, he has been known to dabble in acting, and has appeared in several of his movies, and even made a guest appearance on one of his favorite TV shows (yeah, this was a wet dream come true for me…just deal with it).  However, King should not quit his day job (aka writing books I can’t put down), and leave the acting up to the big boys.

Cleaner 1

So who does that leave?  Well, one of my picks would be John Cusack.  Cusack already has a relationship with King, and an understanding of the material (he starred in 1408 and will star in the upcoming movie adaptation of Cell).  Cusack has the ability to play a nerdy writer, which is actually what King is (don’t worry, Sai, that is a compliment of the highest order).  Cusack can bring the life to this role, and would be an excellent choice.

John Cusack 1

The Low Men

I firmly believe that comedy is actually an essential part of horror.  It appears that Stephen King would agree with me, as there is a lot of comedy gold in his books, even the Dark Tower series (yes, really!).

Taheen 2

One of the funny parts to the Dark Tower series are the Low Men.  The Low Men are actually humanoid creatures, but have animal heads.  And they talk.  Creepy, in other words.  So maybe not actually funny, unless you have a dark sense of humor, like yours truly.

And one actor who can do the darkly comedic really well is Kim Coates, who played the character Tig on the show Sons of Anarchy. Somehow the idea of Tig er Mr. Coates donning an animal head and doing really horrible things is not as far fetched as it sounds.  I believe that he would be a viable choice to play one of these characters.

Tig 1

Another actor who has a definite dark side is Wentworth Miller, as evidenced by his role as Leonard Snart (if that doesn’t sound evil, I don’t know what does) on the TV show The Flash.  Miller has shown that he is capable of being cruel and vindictive, which is perfect for a character such as Pimli o’Prentiss.  This is another “can’t miss” casting  choice.

The Flash -- "Going Rogue" -- Image FLA104B_0108b -- Pictured: Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

While we are on the subject of creeps, let’s talk about Rick Springfield.  Yes, the guy who sang Jessie’s Girl.  And the guy who sang Jessie’s Girl also happens to play an incredibly creepy psychiatrist on the TV show True Detective.  This would translate very well to a character such as Richard Sayer, or Dr. Scowthers.  Springfield would have these roles in the bag, in other words.

Pitlor 1


 

The Music

Now, I would like to talk about an aspect of the upcoming Dark Tower movies that I think is very important, but one that I have not seen get a lot of press.

Caves 1

That’s right, the music for the movies.  While I have seen more casting threads on certain unnamed social media outlets than I care to count, I have not seen too many threads discussing any music for the movies.  And this is a grave oversight, as the music is one of the most important parts to any movie, but especially so for the Dark Tower movies!

Obviously, there are references to several songs in these books.  In fact, some of the music referenced in the books really gives the series its charm…

Johnny Cash 1

Somehow, Johnny Cash is fitting…wasn’t he nicknamed something, possibly something referencing clothing of a dark color?

All kidding aside, Johnny Cash’s version of the song Hurt would fit perfectly in the series.  The song is already quoted at the beginning of the last book in the series, and attributed to its original creator.  This is fine by me, I love both versions.  However, Cash’s version just fits in so well with the series…perhaps it is the version of the song that belongs to Roland’s level of the Tower.

Rose

And luckily, there is a wealth of material to chose from if we want to include any other songs by Cash.  Ghost Riders in the Sky would fit in very well with the theme of the Dark Tower.  Out Among the Stars is another song that brings visions of Mid-World to my mind.  I could go on and on, so I hope that the producers and directors choose to pay homage to this level of the Tower’s Man in Black.

As a certain great sage and eminent junkie so wisely reminded us:  Johnny Cash is everything.

Roland and Flagg

Paint it Black is another song referenced in the the books (in The Wastelands, to be specific).  Not including it in the movies would be criminal, and I will leave it at that.  And hopefully the producers and directors collectively remember the faces of their fathers, and agree with me on that statement.

Another band that I feel that fits in well with the Dark Tower series is Imagine Dragons.  Many of their songs (especially this one) has a post apocalyptic feel.  Roland’s world is post apocalyptic, so a marriage between Imagine Dragons and the Dark Tower series could end up being a match made in heaven (or possibly hell, depending on how you look at it).

Leonard Cohen is another one who can do darkness well (notice a theme here?).  Perhaps the producers could use existing songs (Hallelujah is a song that is a pretty good description of what Roland’s obsession with the Tower has done to him), or perhaps Cohen could grace us with some new songs, just for the movies.  Either way, this may be another match made in hell  heaven.

Roland 1

One thing to keep in mind is that the members of our favorite ka-tet were drawn from different time periods.  So any music used in the series should reflect this.  Susannah was a sort of hippie from the 1960’s, so it would be nice to pay homage to that with some well placed Bob Dylan songs, or perhaps some Phil Ochs songs.  Jake was drawn from the 1970’s, so perhaps some Rolling Stones, or maybe some soul music along the lines the lines of James Brown.  And of course, there is my heartbeat Eddie Dean, who is drawn from 1987.  So perhaps some well placed Aerosmith?  Maybe Madonna?  Run DMC anyone?  Of course, music from the time period is not a necessity for these movies, but it would be nice to add a touch of authenticity, and would also allow the audience to make an emotional connection with these characters.

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

 


Well folks, that’s it for this week’s speculation and pipe dreams.  For that it is exactly what this is:  speculation and pipe dreams.  Could some of them come true?  Well, anything is possible.  Could some of these ideas never see the light of day?  Again, its all possible!  Or could the folks behind the movie come up with some even crazier ideas that are so crazy that they just might work?  Well, that wouldn’t be the first time something as happened, nor would it be the last.  And of course, this blog will be your go to place for dissection and discussion (pretty please, I love readers!)  But until then…

that's all folks 1

Since Everyone is Entitled to my Opinion

So it happened again.

It sure did.

About two weeks ago, the internet broke.  Yep, it broke.  AGAIN.  Really, the internet can be fragile sometimes.  Although luckily, I think it responds to duck tape.  And maybe even Krazy Glue.

Urusla

Usually, anything that breaks the internet is not something I care much about.  I’m just not that much into Miley Cyrus and her twerking.  Or Kim K butt pics.  Or what color that dress really is…its just ugly, period!

ugly dress

But this time, I cared.  It may be one the few rare times during the long period I have graced this planet with my existence (37 years in June, actually) but I found myself actually caring about what broke the internet.  And I may have actually contributed to the breakage, although I think my contribution amounted to no more than a virtual greenstick fracture.

greenstick fracture

As we all know, I am obsessed with Stephen King.  I have read nearly all of his books.  In particular, I am obsessed with The Dark Tower series.

Yes, obsessed.  And I mean OBSESSED as opposed to obsessed.  I am a member of multiple Facebook fan pages for Stephen King and The Dark Tower series.  I am even an admin for two of these pages (could we really get any nerdier?  Wait, that is a rhetorical question, not a challenge!)  I have made so many new friends through these pages, and even had the opportunity to interview Mr. King’s right hand lady of The Dark Tower series.  I constantly draw and create other forms of artwork inspired by The Dark Tower series.

Robin-Furth 2

Oh, and I created this blog, which has a few entries on King and his works.

So, its safe to say I am a Constant Reader or CR for short (which I will call myself from now on, since that sounds a little nicer than COFG, which stands for Crazy Obsessed Fan Girl).

So, I am passionate about The Dark Tower series.  Very few works have touched me in the manner that this series has, and it will remain my favorite fantasy series of all time.  It is powerful, and simply inspiring.

Roland 1

And like all other fans, I can’t get enough.  I read the comics inspired by the series.  And I read books about the series, such as The Road to the Dark Tower, The Dark Tower Companion and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Complete  Concordance (both volumes!) written by Bev Vincent and Robin Furth, respectively.  And any time a new King books is released, I have my hands on it and my nose buried in it, looking for any connection, no matter how remote, to what King has called his magnum opus.

Bev Vincent 1

But there is one thing I have not had the pleasure (?) of being able to do.  Batman fans have had it.  The Lord of the Rings fans have had it too.  Even Twilight (*shudder*) fans have had it.

GoT meme

Yes, that’s right.  The Dark Tower has never been made into a movie.  Not even an animated one (we will talk more about that later, as a matter of fact).  So many King books have been adapted into films (with varying degrees of success).  But not The Dark Tower.  This short film is the closest thing we have is this adaptation, which is actually a pleasure to watch and totally worth the few minutes of your time that it will take.  But, again, that is closest thing we had for a screen adaptation of The Dark Tower series.

Until now.

Sony Pictures has announced that it has acquired the rights to The Dark Tower series, aka Stephen King’s magnum opus, which spans eight full length books so far, along with a couple of related short stories.

Cue the loud crashes and squealing right about here.  That would be the sound of the internet breaking.

And the reactions have been interesting, to say the least.  Many are excited.  For years, fans have been strung along with the promise of a movie, but that promise has never been delivered.  The last bit of news we received on a potential Dark Tower movie was in July of 2011, when it was announce that Universal Pictures had scrapped the plans for the movie, although director Ron Howard assured fans that he was still attached and this movie would be made one day.

DT 2

And of course, the naysayers.  Saying it can’t be done, despite the success of franchises such as The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings.  However, my personal favorite is the fan who says that no Dark Tower movie should ever, EVER be made, as that will ruin the books!  Apparently, I am clueless, because a bad movie adaptation (Running Man and Lawnmower Man, we are talking about you, cough, cough) somehow changes the source material, making all of us unable to ever read said source material ever again, because, well, film adaptations are just magical like that and have the ability to somehow magically re-write books, DAMMIT!

book vs movie 1

 

So, everyone has an opinion.  Including me.  And now I have this blog that I created just for the express purpose of having super nerdy discussions, so let’s have one in regards to this controversial topic that has caused so many heated discussions in internet land, perhaps being responsible for many a virtual earthquake (or perhaps a Beam-quake, in this case).

Roland 2


Can this even be done?  Can such a complex story be translated on to the screen, and make a good movie?  More importantly, should it even be done?  After all, we will always have the books!

One of my favorite fantasy series as a child (before I was lured into the world of Roland Deschain and his friends) was The Lord of the Rings trilogy, along with The Hobbit.  I read these books many times, and watched the animated version of The Hobbit more than a few times.  And I pined for live action movies, figuring they would never happen in my lifetime.

Then I hit my 20’s.  I picked up some magazine one day, and lo behold, saw an article stating that all three books in said trilogy would be movies.  Live action movies.  So I marked my calendar.  I was so excited.  And I was right to be excited.  All three movies lived up to my expectations.  I especially enjoyed Lord of the RingsThe Two Towers…I mean, Ents!  Ents fighting!  It was bad ass!  One of the most iconic scenes in the books had been given justice.  And I sighed in nerdy ecstasy…

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-two-towers5

My point is that The Dark Tower is not the only complex fantasy series in existence.  And complex fantasy series (see above paragraph) can successfully be made into good or even great motion pictures.  Our technology has advanced even more since the release of The Lord of the Rings movies, and anyone who makes movies can do astounding things in regards to special effects.  And the stigma of movies being too long (longer than 100 minutes) is slowly starting to fade…just look at the success of The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay Part I, which clocks in at well over two hours.  If it is done well (and I believe a director like Ron Howard is perfectly capable of this), people don’t care about the length, and will not be intimidated at the thought of sitting in a theater for over two hours.  Some movies are just that good.

DT movie 3

And let me reiterate:  to me, nothing will ever top a book.  If I am given the choice, I will almost always choose the book (see the paragraph above the cute kitty meme).  But I still want a Dark Tower movie.  Think of it like this:  I may like steak, and it will always be my favorite, but there is no reason why I can’t have fish or seafood for dinner some nights.  After all, I can’t just subsist on steak, and I need some variety in my diet.  In other words, I need movies every now and then, along with books.  And I want to see my favorite characters come alive, and have them move me onscreen like they do on the page.  I want to see the fantastical landscapes I have been imagining in my head all these years.  I want to see what special effects can do to a story.

Most importantly, I want to be able to share the experience of The Dark Tower.  My husband is awesome and wonderful and the best husband in the world, but he is not a reader.  I have been talking about this series from almost day one (this statement should bring any single person new hope.  If a nerd like me can find someone, there really is someone out there for everyone).  But he watches movies.  And many others are the same way.  So if this movie can turn more people on the awesomeness otherwise known as The Dark Tower series, then I fully support it.  The fact that a Dark Tower movie may make my conversations at parties more relevant and less boring is just an added bonus.


 

Who should be cast?  The only person who can play Roland is Clint Eastwood!  Even King himself has said this!

First of all, much respect to Clint Eastwood.  If I wore a hat, I would take it off to the man.  He deserves every single accolade that he has received.  The man is an icon, pure and simple.

Clint Eastwood 1

But, he is in his 70’s.  He may be an icon, but he is still an old icon.  And King did base the character of Roland and the entire setting of the series off of characters played by Eastwood, and also off of the spaghetti westerns he grew up watching as a child.  However, this does not mean that Eastwood should play Roland.  Plenty of actors would be able to bring the grittiness that is needed to pull off a character like our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.

cuthbert and alain

Likes Timothy Olyphant.  I could readily envision him as a cold blooded man who will do whatever it takes to reach his tower.  The fact that Olyphant already plays a cowboy (or a cowboy-like character) on a popular TV series is just an added bonus.

Timothy-Olyphant-Justified_300

Or Hugh Jackman.  Jackman has proven acting chops, and also seems to be able to bring that grittiness needed for Roland.  And he is also pretty easy on the eyes.  Speaking of eyes, I am aware that Roland’s are blue and neither one of the actors I have mentioned so far have blue eyes.  However, that is why contact lenses were invented.

hugh-jackman

Ok, I am done talking about Roland.  I love Roland to death, but I also love a lot of the characters that many would be considered “minor” in the series, although they all play a huge role.  So I happen to think the casting of these characters is almost as important as Roland.

Nort

Like Nort.  Nort is the best undead junkie in literature, and I would love to see him cast properly, and for someone to really put his heart and soul into this character and bring him to life on the big screen.

Someone like Kurt Sutter, possibly.  Nort is a creepy, frightening guy, and Kurt Sutter has proven experience in the creepy and frightening department via his character Otto on Sons of Anarchy.  So it is no stretch (at least for me) to imagine Sutter cast as an undead junkie.

Otto

 

Jack Mort aka The Pusher is another iconic, although relatively minor, character in this series.  And I hope that he is cast properly.  My pick for Jack Mort is Tom Arnold.  Again, I am basing this on a performance from the show Sons of Anarchy (yeah, I’m a little obsessed, I admit it).  Arnold’s character Georgie Caruso was sleazy, conniving and even pyscho at times, which makes him perfect for the role of Jack Mort, another sleazy, conniving psychopath.

Sons of Anarchy 2x02 Small Tears

And now, let’s talk again about main characters.  More specifically, the role of Susannah Dean (along with Detta Walker and Odetta Holmes, for that matter).  Susannah is a main character and plays a huge role in the series.  And she is a woman who is also African-American.  The tides are slowly turning, but the roles for women, let alone women of color, are still limited.  This is especially true in the fantasy and sci fi genre.  I love that King chose to make this character a woman of color, and it is VERY important to  me that she be cast properly.  Hollywood has a chance to help someone shatter some more glass ceilings and break some more ground.  Lupita Nyong’o is my choice for Susannah.  Her acting chops are proven, and I believe she could pull the role of Susannah, who is an extremely complex character (she suffers from mental illness and was also involved in the civil rights movement in 1960’s New York).  She is also beautiful and charismatic.  Perfect, in other words.

LupitaSusannah 1


 

What about Oy?  And Jake?  Won’t he age out?  And the flashbacks?  How can we possibly handle those?

CGI.  There, I said it…shudder.  While I believe that CGI is overused much of the time (Jupiter Ascending…cough, cough…ahem), I think it is the perfect answer for the question on how to bring Oy to life on the big screen.  And likely the only way to bring Oy to life on the big screen.  We may still need to cast a voice actor for Oy (he is a talking critter, after all) but CGI will actually provide most of the solutions and create a convincing character.

Oy 1

If you have made it this in reading this post, then congrats.  Also see the paragraph above the awesome Game of Thrones meme.  More specifically, the line about animation.

That’s right, animation.  I believe that animation could be a viable medium for bringing The Dark Tower series to life.

breaking bad

 

Ok, clean up the coffee or other beverage of your favorite choice that you may have spit all over your keyboard after reading the above paragraph, and let’s talk about why animation is in fact a viable to choice to bring Stephen King’s magnum opus to life.

Animation actually solves a couple of problems.  First of all, Jake Chambers is 11 years old when the series starts, and it seems he remains 11 years old for the remainder of the series.  The movies (as we all know there will need to be multiple movies in order for this to work) will probably take at least a couple of years to  film, even if they are filmed simultaneously in the same manner as The Lord of the Rings.  This presents a problem, as most 11 year old children grow and change rapidly (damn pesky puberty).  So it is possible that the actor who plays Jake could age out of the role.  However, if the series is animated, that problem is solved.  Animation would allow Jake to remain 11 throughout the story, keeping that particular part of the story intact.

Jake Chambers

The Dark Tower series also contains a ton of flashbacks.  Wizard and Glass is one long flashback.  Much of The Gunslinger also consists of flashbacks.  While flashbacks are awesome in books, they can be problematic in live action movies.  However, flashbacks can actually blend in very well in animated movies.  Animation may even be the preferred method of medium to tell certain back stories (such as Roland’s time in Meijis) or to possibly even bring to life the Dark Tower comics.  After all, bringing more Dark Tower related material into existence cannot possibly be a bad thing.

Roland and tet 1


My opinion.  There you have it.  Whether you wanted it or not, I have brought it to you via this blog post.  And please, keep in mind that opinions are like assholes:  we all have them.  And I am entitled to mine, just like everyone else (to theirs as well as mine).  And I am greatly looking forward to see what, if any, of my ramblings on this post come to fruition over the next several months or years.  I am hopeful that this endeavor will be successful, but to quote many a wise person before me:  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, stay tuned for more news and posts regarding this endeavor.

time_will_tell

 

 

A Taste of What May Come…

As we all know, I love Stephen King (duh).  And I love The Dark Tower series (duh, again).  I consider it to the greatest fantasy series ever written.  I am on my fourth re-read of the series.  There are very few books or movies that I can return to so many times, and learn something new each time.

dark tower

So naturally, I want a Dark Tower movie.  I want a Dark Tower movie really, really badly, in fact.

Sometimes, wanting a movie version of your favorite book is akin to taking back your ex.  You know he’s bad for you.  He makes promises and then he breaks them.  And he changes things in your life that WERE JUST FINE BEFORE HE MEDDLED, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!  But yet you are still hopeful that it will work out, as you try to convince yourself that the decision is a good one, after all.

book vs movie 1

So yes, I am conflicted.  I may say I want a Dark Tower movie, but sometimes I feel the idea is almost as bad as taking back my ex (that will never, ever happen, for all curious parties.  Not no way, not no how, just in case you were wondering).  Do I really want to see my favorite set of books of all time, possibly chopped to pieces and butchered like a pig in a slaughterhouse?

Well, yes.  The pull is that strong.  Almost as strong as the Tower’s hold over Roland Deschain, you might say.

Earlier this week, I was sent a clip, titled Susannah’s Lesson, via the magic of Facebook and all the Stephen King/Dark Tower related pages that have become my Achilles heel in recent months, of a pivotal scene from the third book in the Dark Tower series, The Wastelands.  The clip is a mini movie directed by Shahab Zagari, and stars Sarah Gabriella as Susannah Dean, and Jacob Gallegos as Roland Deschain.

Roland and Susannah

And when I saw this clip, even though it was short, my fears in regards to an adaptation were laid to rest, at least briefly.  This clip managed to capture the essence of the scene in the book, which has always been a favorite of mine, in a convincing fashion, even though this mini movie was independently produced and directed.  And if an entire movie (or set of movies, which is more likely) were to be filmed in this fashion…oh boy, I get chills down my spine just thinking about it.

To briefly summarize, the scene starts off with Roland passing down a lesson to Susannah, who is now a gunslinger in training.  Roland is able to coax what he wants out of Susannah (accurate shooting) but resorts to bringing up painful incidents from Susannah’s past to fuel the anger that she often represses.  This angers Susannah, and she and Roland exchange words.  Meanwhile, Roland is being driven crazy by a paradox, but is keeping this from Eddie and Susannah.  The movie ends with Roland and Susannah’s argument being interrupted by the trees shaking in the forest and the howls of some unseen creature (in the book, this was the attack of Mir, one of the Guardians of the Beam).

Shardik 1

One of the first things I noticed about this movie was the scenery…it was gorgeous, and very close to what I imagined in my mind when envisioning this scene.  The trees and even the rocks added an element of the familiar in what is supposed to be a surreal world.

Maturin 1

I also noticed that sound was used effectively in this movie.  There was haunting background music, which fits in very well with the vibe in the Dark Tower series, as the series has so many elements of an old fashioned western.  The noises used to represent Mir were also effective, as the bear cyborg was never pictured in the film.  Sometimes, less is more and the sound effects really emphasized that point.

But lets talk about my favorite part of this movie:  the acting and the chemistry between the two actors.  Both actors really captured the essence of Roland and Susannah.  In particular, I was struck by Gabriella’s facial expressions, as she was really able to bring the character’s inner conflict (hippie war protester by day, cold blood gunslinger by night) to the screen.  Oftentimes, books contain a lot of inner monologue that is really difficult to bring to the screen.  Gabriella was able to show the viewer the complex emotions experienced by Susannah.  Gallegos also did a great job bringing Roland to the screen, especially when Roland was coaxing accurate shooting out of Susannah.  Gallegos appeared cold and even somewhat manipulative, which is exactly what Roland is.  Its one thing to play a gunslinger in practice (i.e. Roland killing off an entire town with no second thoughts) and another to play a gunslinger in essence (Roland coaxing Susannah into cold-blooded, accurate shooting by bringing up an incident where she was jailed and treated inhumanely), and Gallegos was able to do the latter effectively.  The two actors also had chemistry, and were able to convincingly play a teacher and student, which later transitioned to one friend who was concerned for the well being of another friend.  The two were able to bring Susannah and Roland and an iconic scene in The Wastelands to life in a realistic fashion.

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As a side note, I enjoyed the opening credits, as it contained a bear instead of the lion seen in certain other films…I see what you did there, Shahab!

Much like Luke Skywalker’s introduction to the Jedi, seeing this moving brought hope.  It brought hope that maybe the concept of a Dark Tower movie would be a much better idea than me getting back together with my ex.  Maybe the promises could be kept and the meddling would be minimal.  In other words, sometimes things can work out, if they initially seem like they are against your better judgement!

the dark tower cover_0

 

Top 10 Shocking Moments in Television and Film

As I have stated before, I am not much a movie person.  I am a book nerd, and I prefer to read my stories, as opposed to watching them on a screen.  Oftentimes, my imagination fills in a lot more details than a movie or television screen ever can.

However, I do enjoy some movies and some television shows.  The ones I enjoy the most have a lot of action.  But my favorite part of any movie or television show is The Twist.  Or The Shocking Moment That No One Saw Coming in a Million Years.

Long before we had Facebook, Twitter or any other medium that allowed a moment in film and television to be a shocker for all of about 30 seconds, people would tune into a movie or TV show blissfully unaware of the shocker or twist, and were actually surprised by it.  And the discussions that were had not online, but by the water cooler, outside of class, etc.    In other words, we operated differently in pre-history and it was still possible for people to not know of the plot twists for hours or even days before watching the film or TV show…the good old days!  And I have no words to describe the feelings I got when I watched something and got to actually be surprised by it…it was just priceless!

All that being said, some plot twists and shocking moments will always remain classic and withstand the test of time.  Here are my personal top 10:

10)  Hulk Hogan turns heel (WCW)

Yes, wrestling may technically be considered a sport and not a movie or television show.  However, we all know that most shows featuring wrestling are as scripted as any movie, so I will count this as a TV show moment for this list.

Hulk Hogan was the consummate good guy.  His image was wholesome.  He told kids to take their vitamins and say their prayers.  He was untouched by any scandal and was someone every little boy (at least the ones growing up in the 80’s and 90’s) looked up to.  In fact, he was such a good guy that Bevis and Butthead mocked him.

However, Hogan was not to remain a good guy forever, as he wanted to take his career to another level.  And in 1996, he took his career to another level and then some, when Hogan turned “heel.”  The iconic good guy of professional wrestling shocked the world by joining NWO (New World Order), teaming with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash and turning into a “bad guy.”  The man who reminded the world to take its vitamins and say its prayers would now go on to participate in acts of vandalism and to make obscene gestures on television.    Audience members even threw trash into the ring, out of surprise and anger.  Hollywood Hogan was born.  Hollywood Hogan was just one of many characters who would usher in the edgier, raunchier “Attitude Era” in professional wresting.  However, change is never easy, and the fallout from Hulk Hogan turning “heel” is a prime example of that, as Hogan lost many fans when when he decided to take his career to another level.

“Turning heel” is actually quite a common occurrence in the world of professional wrestling.  In fact, many fans even suggest it to their favorite wrestlers.  But it is rare for a wrestler like Hogan to seemingly out of the blue make such as drastic change, risking losing so many fans and also risking his career.  But it was a gutsy move that paid off in the end, and will always be remembered, for better or worse, as the day Hogan turned heel.

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9)  Hand coming out of the grave (Carrie, 1976)

I like good old fashioned scares that make me jump out of my seat when I watch something that is supposed to be a horror movie.  The slasher flickers and “found footage” films that pass for horror movies today are seriously lacking in that area, so as a result, I don’t watch too many modern flicks.  If I am going to get my fix out of a horror movie, I will watch something older.  Like the 1976 version of Carrie.

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Carrie is probably best known for the scenes where the title characters wreaks havoc at her high school prom, and rightfully so. Brian  De Palma did a beautiful job filming those scenes, using slow motion and dual shots to showcase the destruction.  However, the scene that is likely responsible for many a nightmare, even almost 40 years later is the final scene, where Carrie’s hand comes out of the grave, reaching for poor Sue Snell.  This was a dream scene, so it wasn’t “real” but it was terrifying nonetheless.  De Palma filmed the scene backwards to give it a dream-like quality, and also included images such as Carrie White’s vandalized gravestone.  The result is a surreal quality, but when the hand grabs Sue Snell, the surreal quality vanishes and the viewer is brought back to earth, along with a terrified Sue Snell.  This brief scene plays a big role in setting the tone for the entire film, and is still unsettling, even today.

Stephen King himself went to see Carrie when it was released in the theaters.  He stated that he watched the film to the end, and knew it was a success because two large men in the row in front of him grabbed each other and screamed in surprise when the final scene was shown.  And if its good enough for the master, its certainly good enough for me.

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8)  Rue’s death (The Hunger Games)

A lot of movies and books have what I call “a shit just got real scene.”  The Hunger Games probably can be said to have more than one of these scenes, given the content of the film and the books.  But one scene in particular stands out, and that is Rue’s death scene.  Rue is an 12 year girl who is an unwilling participant in a reality show mandated by a dystopian society which glorifies suffering and violence.  We root for Rue and Katniss Everdeen (the main protagonist) because they are good guys, and good guys don’t die, right?  Well, sometimes that may work in the movies, but The Hunger Games brings us back to reality when Rue is killed off, reminding us that good guys do NOT always win, and that they oftentimes suffer more than the bad guys.  Rue’s death also drives home that no one in this world is safe, not even children, and that children are often put in danger due to the horrible decisions made by adults that they have no control over.

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7)  The death of Optimus Prime (Transformers, 1986)

Again, let’s talk about good guys.  And how they don’t die.  Except in animated movies intended for children…

Yep, reality sets in again but this time in an animated movie about talking robots who transform into different vehicles.  Most people look back on Transformers as a bit of nostalgia from the 1980’s (before the one known as Michael Bay took over, anyway) and not necessarily as a reality check.  However, we are treated to a reality check anyway with the death of Optimus Prime (the childhood icon to the many of us who grew in up in the 1980’s).  Deaths of major characters who are “good guys” are actually not that unusual.  What was unusual about this particular death was that it occurred in an animated movie intended for children of an average age of about 9 years old.  The Transformers cartoon of the 1980’s was irreverent for the most part (the lessons on morality were left for GI Joe and Masters of the Universe, for the most part).  So a death of a major character in this cartoon was a bit jarring, and likely many viewers felt the loss of their childhood after that particular death was witnessed.  And were reminded that no one, including their friends, family or even the Autobots were safe from danger or even death.

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6)  Barf-o-Rama (Stand By Me)

Stephen King has also stated that if he can’t scare you, he will go for the gross out instead, because he is not proud.  Of course, gross outs are not uncommon in horror movies and can really add to the movie if done properly.

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Where one does not expect to see a gross out is a coming of age movie, even if the movie is based on a novella written by the master of modern horror.  The publication of the collection Different Seasons allowed King to break out of mold of “horror writer” and finally be acknowledged a writer, and an excellent one at that.  Three of the four novellas were made into movies, and The Body was one of them (also known as the movie Stand by Me).  The story tells of four adolescent boys who are on the cusp of adulthood, and have one last adventure together.  One of the young men, Gordy, tells the story of the hapless character he calls Lard Ass.  Lard Ass seeks revenge on the townspeople who wronged him by inducing a mass vomiting session at a pie eating contest.  To the surprise of a few, this scene was included in the movie, with full visuals.  Gordy’s voice over describes how the men, women and children of the town (the Eternal Order of Antelopes was my personal favorite), begin to vomit on one another, while the screen shots actually show the vomiting, instead of merely implying it.  This scene is just unexpected and disgusting, yet funny at the same time. It is actually able to invoke simultaneous shuddering and laughing.  The best of both worlds, in other words.

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We often forget that bodily functions can be funny at times.  And the gross out, that is not above the likes of Stephen King, can also be funny.  Hence, the Barf-o-Rama scene in Stand By Me will always remain one of the funniest and best gross out scenes in cinematic history.

5)  The reveal of Two Face (The Dark Knight)

To many, the movie The Dark Knight is about The Joker.  And it is.  The main villain in that movie is The Joker.  Heath Ledger gave a performance for the ages in his portrayal of one of the most recognized villains in the comic book and movie world.  In fact, the story line focuses heavily on The Joker and his antics.  So heavily that the viewer almost misses the other villain in the movie.  One that is almost as iconic as The Joker.  Two Face, in other words.

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Yes, The Joker storyline almost overshadows the story of Two Face in The Dark Knight.  However, the key word is almost.  And the nearly overshadowing of Harvey Dent aka Two Face actually works, as the reveal of Two Face takes the story in a new direction, as Harvey Dent had previously been on the side of the good, even putting his life at risk to protect Bruce Wayne’s identity as Batman. Dent also puts himself directly in the line of fire from The Joker. However, Dent’s accident and subsequent mental breakdown pushes him to the other side and open to the power of suggestion from The Joker, and Gotham is now faced with dual threats.  Two Face is dispatched by Batman, but the damage has been done, and the movie ends with a manhunt for Batman, while Harvey Dent is still viewed as a hero.

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Oftentimes, less is more.  The reveal of Two Face in The Dark Knight is a prime example of this, as it allows the development of multiple story lines in what is a true masterpiece of a movie.

4)  The killer toy clown (Poltergeist)

People are supposed to be safe in their own homes.  Kids are supposed to be safe when their parents are also home.  It should also be safe at home after an escapee from Munchkinland a medium comes over, rescues your daughter from evil spirits holding her hostage and then declares your home free from those pesky evil spirits…

Well, except if your house is actually built on a burial ground because some jerk removed the headstones and not the bodies, desecrating the ground and royally pissing off a bunch of ghosts.  Like in the movie Poltergeist

And let’s face it, clowns are really, really scary…terrifying actually.  Why anyone would put a toy clown in their kids’ room and not expect them to not need extensive psychiatric help in adulthood is beyond me, but that’s my personal opinion.  And the toy clown that comes to life and attacks the little boy is one of the scariest moments in any movie ever, especially as we are led to believe that the home and its inhabitants are now safe, as the ghosts are supposed to be gone.  But they are not, and attempting to kidnap Carol Anne Freeling was not enough for these spirits…now they are after everyone in the house and will not rest until they destroy everyone in the house.  The ghosts don’t care that its a family home, and that the parents are home and everyone should be safe in that home.  The ghosts will do anything to seek revenge, and that includes possessing a doll and attacking a child.  The result is a scene that surely has haunted the dreams of many an 80’s child throughout the years.

People often forget that Poltergeist has a mere PG rating.  Somehow a film with no violence, no sexuality and very few swear words still manages to stand the test of time and be one of the most frightening horror movies to date.

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3)  Darth Vader reveals Luke’s parentage (The Empire Strikes Back)

“Luke, I am your father.”  This is perhaps one of the most quoted lines out of any movie, and probably one of the most parodied.  However, it is still one of the most shocking lines ever uttered as well.

Human beings like to draw lines to distinguish good from evil.  We call good The Side of the White, while the bad is black or red.  And bad guys are separate from the good guys, while the good guys don’t have an ounce of bad in them at all…

Except, that’s not how it works.  It is said that Lucifer himself started out as an archangel, and was the most beautiful of the angels, until he fell.  And good guys are tempted by evil all the time, even good guys like Luke Skywalker.  Luke is shocked and unhappy to be revealed as the son of Darth Vader, who is the bad guy he and his friends are fighting against, as it makes him question his own motives.  After all, Luke’s own father was once a Jedi, but fell, in much the same way as Lucifer the archangel.  And if a Jedi like Anakin Skywalker can fall, that means no one is safe.  And that includes Luke Skywalker.  When it is revealed that Darth Vader, the ultimate bad guy, is actually the father to Luke Skywalker, the story quickly takes a different direction, and the viewer begins to question Luke and his intentions.  Will Luke be tempted by the dark side now?  Will Luke break the alliance and betray his friends?  After all, he came from the bad so that makes him bad, right?  Well, as we all know, Luke and his friends triumphed in the end, with Luke overcoming the temptation and defeating the Darth Vader in the final battle.  However, Luke does not forget where he comes from and is still saddened over the fate of his father, proving that his humanity will never leave him and that he will always be a “good guy.”

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The fact that Luke was attracted to who would later be revealed to be his twin sister Leia and almost engaged in an incestuous affair with her is an added bonus to the reveal of his true parentage.

Luke and Leia

2)  The chicken baby (M*A*S*H)

On the surface, M*A*S*H was a comedy set in the Korean War, told from the viewpoint of doctors and other medical personnel who are working from the trenches.  And that would be a pretty accurate description of the show.  However, the writers of the show often managed to tackle tough issues, and make statements in regards to issues that our country faced during the airing of the show (the Viet Nam War is a prime example).

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One of these issues that the writers tackled was the effect that war has on everyone, from the soldiers fighting the war to the doctors who work in the trenches to the civilians that the military is supposed to be protecting.  This issue was actually discussed several times, but the most memorable time was actually in the last episode of the series, titled Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.  This episode was the series finale, and presumably a happy episode, as the war was finally over and everyone would be able to return home.  And the episode did deliver on that premise.  However, as stated before, the episode also tackled some major issues.  These were from the perspective of Captain Hawkeye Pierce.  Throughout the series, Hawkeye was a vocal protester of the war in Korea, as he felt many of his country’s actions were wrong.  However, he is still dutiful and does everything he can to serve his country, the Korean citizens and his fellow soldiers.  But the war begins to take its tolls on Hawkeye (and his friends), and an incident on a bus sends Hawkeye to a mental institution.  The incident is re-told through a series of flashbacks to Dr. Sidney Freedman, a military psychiatrist.  The re-telling of the incident first takes a comedic turn, as Hawkeye talks of whiskey and chickens boarding the bus.  However, Dr. Sidney understands that humor is Hawkeye’s way of trying to process the unimaginable, and is slowly able to get Hawkeye to tell the real story.  The story then takes a chilling turn, as the chickens were stand-ins for villagers who took refuge in the bus after their village was invaded.  The lady holding a “chicken” was actually holding a human child.  Hawkeye tells her to keep the “chicken” quiet, as he and the other passengers on the bus must hide from the invaders.  The villager takes Hawkeye’s words to heart, and smothers the “chicken.”  However, it is revealed that the villager actually smothered her human baby to death as opposed to a clucking chicken.  Again, this reveal reminds us that war can have many consequences, even on those we are supposed to be protecting.  It also reminds us that while the soldiers fighting the wars may have it hard, that we cannot forget the doctors who sometimes make enormous sacrifices in order to fulfill their Hippocratic Oath.

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Someone once told me that when you laugh and cry at the same time, you are having “a rainbow day.”  I often thought of this phrase after I watched M*A*S*H, a show that made me laugh and cry on a regular basis, therefore giving me many rainbows.

And, now for the number 1 shocking moment in television and film history…

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1)  The reveal of “mother” (Psycho)

Yes, the “master of shock” aka Alfred Hitchcock has a film in the number one spot on this list.  Real shock there, huh?  (See what I did there).

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Alfred Hitchcock can easily be argued to be the greatest filmmaker of his generation, if not the greatest filmmaker in history.  Hitchcock was prolific, directing over 50 films in his career.  Hitchcock was also not afraid to push boundaries, as his films featured sexuality and violence, which were in contrast to some of the more lighthearted fare of his time.  So, many of Hitchcock’s films contained material that was bound to shock his audience.

Psycho is one of those films that was sure to shock Hitchcock’s audience.  And the movie is loaded with those moments.  The movie begins with the “protagonist” committing an illegal act.  Then there is the scene in the shower.  The shower scene alone was considered risque for its time, due to the implied nudity.  However, the protagonist is murdered while taking a shower, which ups the ante for the shock value.  And then there was that old woman who was committing the murders and unable to be stopped by her son (who went by the name of Norman Bates)…

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Except there was no old woman.  And no son trying to stop her from committing murders.  Throughout the movie, we see evidence of the old woman.  We hear her talk and see her shadowy figure.  Norman also speaks of her often, and will not hear a bad word about her.  However, its all a ruse.  At the end of the movie, it is revealed that Norman’s mother is deceased and we see her corpse.  We then see Norman dressed as a old woman, carrying a knife.  Norman was not the innocent son who tried to stop his mother from committing atrocious acts.  Rather, Norman was the one committing the murders all along under the guise of his “mother personality.”  That personality was so convincing that he manages to fool everyone (including the viewer) up until the last few minutes of the movie.  Even more shocking, the “mother” personality has now asserted her dominance even in death, as she did during life, and completely taken over Norman at the end of the movie.  In what is one of the most unsettling endings of any film ever, we hear Mrs. Bates voice stating that she “should have put Norman way forever” and that she would “never hurt a fly.”  We then see a double exposure of Norman’s face merging with the face of Mrs. Bates, symbolizing the dominance of the “mother” personality.

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Psycho is a film that touches on so many taboos:  stealing, sexuality, violence and incest are a few.  The ending, with its reveal of the true “mother”, manages to take a disturbing film to another level of creepy, with some frightening long term implications.  Psycho is truly deserving of the number 1 spot on this list.

 

Even though I have seen most of these movies and television shows many times, these (and other) moments never fail to get my attention even now, and I still sometimes  gasp, even when I know what is coming.  Such is the power of good film making.

 

 

My top 10 movies

Admittedly, I am not a movie geek.  I fall into the category of book geek.  I much prefer books to movies, hands down.  And movies based on books?  Don’t get me started, you do not want to watch most of those with me.

However, I am married to someone who is a movie geek (and a pretty cute one at that).  So I make concessions.  My movie watching time has increased in the past several years.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I still think books are better, but the screen is a valid artistic medium.  There is no denying that.  Some tell stories with pen and paper, and some use film.  Both can give rise to some great works.

With all that being said, here is my list of my top 10 favorite movies of all time.

10)  The Stand

Yes, I know this never hit the theaters.  And I know its technically a mini series and not a movie.  However, it is about 6 hours long, so I count it as 3 three movies.

With all this being said, The Stand is one of the best adaptations of an author who has too many books that have become the victims to horrible adaptations (Running Man, anyone?)  The Stand is one in a long line of movies that can be categorized as “dystopian”  However, The Stand has a few things to make it stand out (no pun intended).  The casting was brilliant, for the most part.  Who can forget Bill Fagerbakke in the role of Tom Cullen, a mentally challenged man who risks life and limb to fight for the side of the good?  Gary Sinise was also memorable as Stu Redmond, the quiet man from east Texas thrust into the role of the leadership that he did not really want.  And then there is Rob Lowe’s (before his fame as Meathead Rob Lowe on the Direct TV commercials) role as Nick Andros, a deaf mute.  Lowe only had few lines of dialogue in the entire movie, but it is the non-speaking performance that will be remembered for years to come.  The Stand was also limited by network TV and the lack of any real CGI technology (this was 1994 after all) but was still an overall great (and faithful to the source material) adaptation to what many consider to be the greatest Stephen King book ever written.  And it has rightfully earned its place on my list.

Nick

9) Carrie (1976)

Poor Carrie…why can’t she catch a break?  She was just trying to be a normal teenager for once.  Her mother tries to ruin it for her but wildly underestimated Carrie’s…talents, shall we say?  And those horrible girls at the prom then tried to ruin it again but then they became victim to Carrie’s,..uh…talents.  Don’t people ever learn?  Do not mess with someone endowed with telekinesis…it just doesn’t pay!

As someone who has been the victim of bullying for most of her natural life, there is no way that the 1976 version of Carrie does not deserve a place on this list of all time great movies.  Not only did I completely identify with Carrie (I was her, minus the religious fanatic mother), I was blown out of the water by the performance of Sissy Spacek in the title role.  However, even though Sissy Spacek was great in her role, Piper Laurie stole the show in her role as Carrie’s fanatically religious mother Margaret White.  Many say she was robbed of the Oscar for that role.  I can’t really argue against that.  And this was made in 1976, so Sissy Spacek and company could not rely on CGI.  In other words, all acting, baby.  And some really great acting at that.

Myself and all the other bullied children should have a special place in our hearts for Carrie White.  And this movie indeed has a special place on this list as well.

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8)  Nightmare Before Christmas

So, its Halloween and things are feeling autumn-like.  Time to watch…Nightmare Before Christmas!

The snow is in the air and the holiday spirit is a-flowing.  Sounds like it may be time to watch…Nightmare Before Christmas!

What a dichotomy!  Halloween movie or Christmas movie?  How do we choose?

Well, it doesn’t matter…its Nightmare Before Christmas, the movie of dual functions!  And also yet another example of the genius of Tim Burton.  The special effects were ahead for the time and helped pave the way for many other movies.  The soundtrack was catchy too, and the characters were cute but cute in a nightmare-ish different sort of way (it is a Tim Burton film after all).  After all, who can forget Sandy Claws, The Pumpkin King, Lock, Shock and Barrel and all the rest of the charmers?

Actually, it doesn’t really matter when you watch Nightmare Before Christmas.  It is a treat no matter what time of year it is!

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7) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

When the news came out that Lord of the Rings would be made in a live action movie consisting of three films, the nerd world collectively jumped for joy.  Well, at least this nerd did.  Finally, we were going to get what we had been clamoring for and the technology was advanced enough to do it justice.  Gandolf, Frodo, Boromir and the rest of the gang were going to come to life, and we gleefully rubbed our hands in anticipation.  And it did not disappoint.  I saw Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring on opening weekend and was already counting down the minutes to the next movie when I left the theater.

And I was right to be counting down the minutes to the release of The Two Towers.  In one word:  Ents.  For those who don’t know, Ents were the sentient tree creatures that chose to fight evil along with Gandolf and co.  And that fight scene was one for the ages.  Hands down, one of the best battle scenes in cinematic history.  Of course, the movie consisted of much more than that particular scene.  We were also introduced to Grima.  Gandalf the White reunited with his friends.  But I will never be able to get images from the battle fought by the Ents out of my mind, especially the scene where one dies in battle…still sends shivers down my spine.

A movie with sentient trees making the list?  Crazy, huh?  Well, wait til you get a load of the rest of the list before you jump to any conclusions!

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6)  Masters of the Universe

I am married to He-Man’s number one fan.  I don’t think he would ever capture He-Man and try to hobble him but check out his shelf dedicated all things Masters of the Universe sometime…its a beauty!  And if its not a sign of dedication then I don’t know what is.

When someone says “He-Man”, most people’s minds automatically conjure up the 1980’s cartoon, or maybe even the 2002 remake.  Only the extremely dedicated will also conjure up the 1987 live action film titled Masters of the Universe.  And that’s a shame.  The cartoon was campy.  And it taught morals!  What would He Man do was the guiding light to every 80’s kid when he/she faced a moral dilemma.  Well, I may be exaggerating, but there is no denying the impact of that cartoon show on the 27-40 year old demographic.  But the live action film also has its place.  True, there were some pretty significant deviations from the cartoons.  And we didn’t get any lessons on morality at the end.  Actually, the very end has one of the best endings to a film ever but I will not spoil it here.  But it has that campyness similar to the cartoons.  As for the special effects…well, they tried.  And Frank Langella as Skeletor?  My 9 year old self had to hide her hands behind her eyes, although she still peaked between her fingers.  That performance easily makes the movie.  Plus, its He-Man!  How could anyone ever go wrong with He-Man?

This was also the first movie I saw when my family and I moved back to the United States after living in Japan for several years.  It got me re-introduced to the good old USA. I will always remember that.  And rank it number 6 on my list.

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5)  Burnt Offerings

Movies about haunted houses are nothing new.  They were not really even new back in 1976, as works such as Haunting in Hill House firmly established themselves as standards.  However, one with a really scary chauffeur, Bette Davis and Burgess Meredith tend to stand out.  This is where Burnt Offerings comes in.  In my opinion, this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time, and is also one of the most underrated horror films of all time.

CGI effects have been par for the course for quite some time now.  Almost any action or horror film relies on them for story telling.  And this is both a blessing and a curse.  Movies like The Avengers would not be the same with out CGI effects.  However, CGI effects can make for extremely lazy story telling, especially in modern horror movies.  When filmmakers rely on the special effects, the acting and the creation of the atmosphere take a back seat.  Therefore, horror have the “gross factor” but often fail to be genuinely scary.  However, this is not so with Burnt Offerings.

The character that will always stick out in the mind is that chauffeur in Burnt Offerings.  This character is actually only a memory of Ben Rolf’s at first, as his mother died at a young age and the chauffeur was present at the funeral.  However, this character actually comes to life when Ben and his family move into an old house that is actually haunted.  This character actually has no lines to speak of, but is very frightening.  Ben sees this apparition before his elderly aunt passes away and the ghost acts as a psychopomp (harbringer between the living and the dead).  This is one the scariest scenes I have ever witnessed.  The effects that the director was able to create with the haunted house also added to the movie, but the ghost of the chauffeur truly made the movie.

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And there is a bonus to this movie:  We are treated to an appearance of Burgess Meredith aka The Penguin in the 1960’s Batman TV series…how much better can it get?

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4)  Boondock Saints

Long before Norman Reedus became known as the sex symbol Darryl Dixon on The Walking Dead, he was Murphy McManus aka 1/2 of the Boondock Saints in the movie with the same title.  Many may associate him with Darryl Dixon.  And that’s fine.  But to me, he will always be Murphy McManus.  In other words, Darryl Dixon can’t hold a candle to Murphy McManus.

Darryl

Movies about vigilante justice are nothing new.  After all, Batman is the original vigilante.  However, Boondock Saints features the Every Man (the McManus brothers), who become accidental vigilantes when they kill Russian mobsters in self defense.  And they have to do it all without any special Batman gadgets.  The Saints are also able to bring local law enforcement to their side, especially Agent Paul Smecker, a conflicted FBI agent.  The Saints are able to accomplish their mission, after much bloodshed.  The movie is also laced with black comedy and is extremely quotable as well.

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In other words, this is a perfect movie to watch on an early date with your future husband…doesn’t get more romantic than that.  Or is that just me?

3)  Pulp Fiction

Note to self:  when your grandparents offer to take you to a movie when you are 16, its probably best NOT to choose Pulp Fiction.  In fact, choosing Pulp Fiction is just not good decision making.  Believe me, I did not hear the end of that one for a while.

But I never forgot the movie either.  Who would be able to forget this one?  Like the previous entry, it is extremely quotable.  Royale with cheese, anyone?  That metric system is so overrated, after all.

And then there is Samuel L. Jackson.  Or should I say Samuel Motherfuckin’ Jackson.  His performance as Jules Winnfield is the stuff of legend.  Jackson is also able to pull off quoting the Bible verses without sounding forced.  And the chemistry between Jackson and his co-star John Travolta is something special too.  While Travolta, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman give great performances, Jackson’s performance is what makes the movie.  And is one of the reasons why he will be a legend for a long time.

This is another great date night movie.  Trust me, it is…hunny bunny!

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2)  The Shawshank Redemption

I have made my feelings on movies based on books pretty well known.  Most of them are pretty bad.  And movies based on Stephen King books are usually a particular brand of awful (Firestarter, anyone?)  And The Shining…I could do a separate blog post on that one.

But The Shawshank Redemption is a rare exception to the rule.  Everything about this movie is simply perfect.  The casting is spot on, especially with Tim Robbins.  Robbins brings Andy to life perfectly.

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And we have Morgan Freeman as Red.  If I see any internet meme with Morgan Freeman in it, my mind reads the words in Red’s voice.  His role was that iconic. In fact, this movie has inspired the extremely talented Frank Caliendo so much that Caliendo is able to tie it in to Lebron James and the NBA.  Talk about iconic.

Speaking of iconic, Family Guy (of all shows), has done a takeoff on this movie.  Now, that must mean it is something special.

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Books are almost always better than movies.  No contact.  But that’s almost.  Sometimes a movie can actually exceed the book, as rare as that it is.  And The Shawshank Redemption is a perfect example of a film able to exceed its source material.

And now…drum roll please…my number 1 movie of all time…

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1)  The Dark Knight

Yes, it all came down to this.  If you are still here reading this, then yes indeed it did.  You slogged your way through this list just to come to a Batman movie at the number 1 spot.  So it goes…are we really surprised?

Ok, put your eyeballs back in your head (you know you were rolling them way back) and let’s talk about why this movie is number 1.

Batman is kind of like pizza (or maybe sex, for those of you with dirty minds).  Even when its bad, its still kind of good and you just really can’t resist.  Even the bad Joel Schumacher Batman movies are still kind of good.  The cheesy 1960’s Adam West Batman is spectacular.  And The Dark Knight is good…after all, its Batman!

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However, The Dark Knight has a lot more going for it than simply being a movie about Batman.  It is well directed and well written.  And it also has some phenomenal performances.  The most well known of these performances is Heath Ledger’s Joker.  The Joker has always been a disturbed character, but Ledger takes it to a whole new level.  Some of his lines as The Joker are very quotable (Wanna know how I got these scars?)  It is also true that Ledger improvised much of the role in the movie (a little known fact).  And the character’s story is not very well fleshed out.  This makes The Joker even more terrifying, as its plausible that anyone could become him.  Ledger received a posthumous Oscar for his performance.  The only bad thing about this particular Oscar winner is that he won the Oscar posthumously and was never able to enjoy it.  Truly the stuff of legends.

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The Dark Knight is associated with The Joker.  And for good reason.  However, the movie also incorporates Two Face, another outstanding performance credited to Aaron Eckhart.  Eckhart is able to convincingly portray Harvey Dent and Two Face.  And the incorporation of Two Face into the story is very slick, as the viewer is caught up more with The Joker story line.  However, the slow transformation of Harvey Dent into the madman known as Two Face is seamlessly woven into the film, and once Two Face is officially introduced, the results are nothing short of spectacular.  The Dark Knight did receive one Oscar (Heath Ledger, supporting actor) but really should have won more Academy awards, especially for the writing and the performance of Aaron Eckhart.

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I have always loved Batman.  I always will love Batman, for better or for worse.  The Dark Knight has everything that I love about Batman:  Alfred, the Bat himself, the Commish, and some great villains.  However, the writing, acting and directing takes it to another level, making it into a true work of art.  And therefore number 1 on my top 10 movies of all time.

There they are.  The top 10 movies of all time, from the perspective of someone who normally prefers to read books. Tune in next week: same bat time, same bat channel.

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Snakes and a love story told in reverse: a review of the movie Horns

Now, I usually hate movies that are based on books.  What can I say, I am a purist?  I nit pick EVERYTHING when watching a movie based on a book, and most don’t measure up.  Books are simply better most of the time, and most movies fail to capture the magic of the books and don’t even come close, for the most part.  Exceptions would be The Hunger Games, The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me and The Green Mile.

But now we can add another movie to the exception list: Horns.  I watched it last night, and I was extremely impressed.  Not only is the adaptation very good, the movie is just a really good movie.  Those seem to be few and far between lately.  There is a reason why Hollywood keeps remaking movies:  the idea pool has gotten pretty shallow as of late and not much decent material to draw on.  However, Horns is on my top list of movies released this year, and may even end up being one of my favorite thriller movies ever.

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Horns is based on a book written by Joe Hill of the same name.  As we all know, Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King.  He has published three full length novels:  Heart Shaped Box, Horns and N0S4A2.  He has also co-authored some work with his famous dad and has published a collection of short stories titled Twentieth Century Ghosts.  The parallels between Hill and King are inevitable and it is natural to draw comparisons.  After all, he is the son of perhaps the most recognized and widely read writer on this planet.  But make no mistake about it:  Joe Hill is Joe Hill and Stephen King is Stephen King.  I personally would not want it any other way.  Both writers have their own merits and should be enjoyed on their own merits as well.  Hill has distinguished himself from his famous father, and Horns is proof of that.

To summarize:  Horns centers around main character Ignacio M. Perrish aka Ig or Iggy (the initials spell out IMP…we see what you did there, Mr. Hill).  One morning, Ig wakes up to discover that he has grown a pair of horns on his head.  And somehow, most people do not find this a problem.  In fact, people open to Ig and confess their deepest, darkest and sometimes nastiest secrets to him.  This is helpful to Ig, as his girlfriend was murdered a year ago and Ig is the main suspect.  Despite the lack of any real evidence, the townspeople and even those closest to Ig have deemed him the killer and tried and hung him.  The love story between Ig and his now deceased girlfriend Merrin is told in reverse, and Ig uses his newfound powers to find the real killer and seek revenge on those who have wronged him.

In the movie, Ig Perrish is played by Daniel Radcliffe (cue the Harry Potter-Horns memes right about here).  This was a smart casting choice, as Radcliffe is able to sympathetically play the character and give him the nuances needed.  However, Radcliffe never makes Ig pitiful at all.  Iggy is seen as a man who has undergone extreme hardship in losing Merrin, who was probably the best part about him.  Ig is seen as a “monster” but Radcliffe never loses the humanity in the character, and we are left rooting for him the entire way.

Juno Temple and Joe Anderson play Merrin Williams (the love of Ig’s life) and Terry Perrish (Ig’s shady, drug addled brother) respectively.  We mainly see both of these characters through Ig’s eyes, and both actors do an admirable job, especially Juno Tempo.  We get to know Merrin through Ig’s flashbacks, and Juno Temple is able to bring a kind of sweet innocence to Merrin, but never makes her into a martyr.  Joe Anderson does a wonderful job with Terry Parrish, portraying him to be the chump that he is, but still bringing a bit of sympathy to the character.  All of the actors seemed to have a kind of chemistry with each other, bringing believability to the dynamic.

What impressed me the most about this movie was how much of the book was kept intact.  There were some minor changes, such as the change in location.  The movie takes place in the Seattle area; the book takes place in New Hampshire.  However, the cinematography was gorgeous.  The camera work allowed for many shots of forest and bodies of water, which really added to the film.  The overcast skies and appropriately placed rain showers also added to the film.  The film also did a good job of keeping the dark humor that was so prevalent in the book.  When Ig discovers his newfound, unwanted powers, mayhem ensues.  Ig attempts to seek help at the doctor’s office and has the misfortune of running into a woman and her bratty daughter.  The woman confesses her infidelity and true feelings about her bratty child to Ig.  The bratty daughter describes, in gleeful detail, how she is plotting her mother’s demise.  The doctor and the nurse confess their true feelings for each other to Ig and start having sex right there in the doctor’s office.  The reporters hounding Ig confess that they really need a breaking story and will stop at nothing to get it.  Then the reporters end up fighting each other in brawl that resembles a WWE Royal Rumble match.  These scenes are disturbing, but the film is able to capture the dark humor in them, and that comes across very well.

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However, I did have a couple of minor problems with this movie.  The character of Glenna, played by Kelli Garner, was simply flat.  I think this is more to blame on the writers as opposed to the actress.  Glenna had much more depth in the book, and the film was just not able to capture this.  The film also failed to capture the true maliciousness of Lee Tourneau, played by Max Minghella.  This is likely because films do not spend much time delving into back stories like books do.  The book contained plenty of history between Ig and Lee, so we see how their relationship develops over the years and how Lee manipulates Ig.  The film simply did not show this, and Minghella was unable to showcase his character’s true capacity for evil.  However, the overall acting job of the cast was able to cover these flaws, and Horns still came across as a movie with supreme acting.

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Often, movies based on books are mediocre on a good day, and complete failures on a bad day.  But with right director, producer and actors, movies can be wonderful adaptations of books, literally bringing characters and locations previously only imagined to life on the big screen.  Horns definitely falls in this category, and is a superb adaptation of Joe Hill’s terrifying, haunting novel.

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